Thirty per cent of farmers in France are women – with one in four farm managers female.
The French figures are
better than most European count-ries and the number of women involved in farming is on the increase.
However, the age profile of women involved in agriculture is on the mature side, though more under-35s are beginning to come into the sector.
Nonetheless, the present situation is significantly different from that of 60 years ago, according to French Agriculture and Food Minister Julien Denormandie.
Chairing a breakfast debate to mark International Women’s Day, he said: “Until the start of the 1960s, the role of women in agriculture was so poorly understood that there was not even a word to describe it.”
The term “agricultrice” (female farmer) had only entered the French dictionary in 1961, he pointed out.
According to figures published recently by the French agriculture ministry, 30 per cent of sheep and wine farms are managed or co-managed by women.
In addition, nearly half of the staff in agricultural colleges are female, as are two-thirds of the students studying farming.
Across the EU the participation of women in agriculture varies greatly.
The number of women farmers in Lativa and Lithuania, at 45 per cent, is well above the European average of 29 per cent.
In the Netherlands, however, only five per cent of farms are run by women, with the figures for Malta, Denmark and Germany only a little better at six per cent, eight per cent, and 10 per cent respectively.
Overall, only 4.2 per cent of women farmers across Europe are under the age of 35.
The EC is attempting to redress the gender balance and has told Member states that they must take account of the situation of women when drawing up rural development programmes.
Laurence Cormier, president of the association Les Elles de la Terre, said there was always talk of male farmers (‘agriculteur’ in French) but that the term for female farmers (‘agricultrice’) still remains “very poorly recognised”.
“But that’s changing, things are moving and women are no longer afraid to settle down today,” she added.
“As a woman entering the agricultural world, we have more to prove than a man who will immediately be considered more legitimate in relation to the profession he chooses,” Ms Cormier said.
“Women are less afraid of failing. We tell ourselves that if one thing doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”
Although establishing a farm is often seen as an “obstacle course” for women in France, an increasing number of them are taking that step.
According to an article published by FranceInfo, 37 per cent of new farmers in France each year are women.