Countryfile did a feature on how women have largely been the pioneers behind organic farming. This caught my attention because in my latest novel, Wanda’s Tree, the main character, you’ve guessed it, Wanda, marries into a family of farmers stuck in the ways of intensive farming. Wanda riles against the use of chemicals and has a strong interest in animal welfare. She is up against what seems like impossible opposition from two men, her husband and his father.
Women as Pioneers in the Organic Movement
So, I was pleased to hear that there are a number of women who have been pioneers in the organic movement. This supports my storyline!
In the Countryfile feature, the Chief Exe of the Soil Association, Helen, talks about how she took over her father’s farm when she was just 24 years old. She immediately had a new vision for the farm. The organic movement had begun by then and in fact there were a lot of women behind it.
Mary Langman and the Wholefood Movement
Mary Langman, who died at the age of 95 in 2004, was a key player in the wholefood and organic movement in Britain. She was an organic farmer in Kent and a founder member of the Soil Association. In the mid-1960s, along with such figures as Yehudi Menuhin, Mary helped to establish Wholefood of Baker Street, the first and most famous shop for whole and organic foods in London. She was a pioneering spirit who helped launch the wholefood movement
Lady Evelyn Balfour founder of the Soil Association
In 1946 Evelyn founded the Soil Association which is playing such an important role today. Her ideas were often dismissed early on, but undeterred, she went on to found a research farm. Here she did the first, side-by-side comparison of chemical and organic farming.
Rachel Rowlands, Founder of Rachel’s Organic
Rachel is the third generation of female dairy farmers. When her father died in 1966, her mother handed the organic dairy farm to Rachel and her husband Gareth Rowlands. At this time, they were supplying premium organic milk to the Milk Marketing Board. They went on to found Rachel’s Organic.
Organic on the Archers
In the mid-1980s, after a scriptwriter for the BBC visited Rachel's family farm, it inspired a storyline in The Archers when Pat and Tony Archer “went organic” at Bridge Farm. Being an Archer’s fan, I am well aware of this storyline and I’ve often thought that they must have been early adopters of organic farming.
There are so many great women in farming today including Minette Batters at the NFU. Lots of women are running their own farming systems and many are drawn to organic farming or farming in sympathy with nature. Animal welfare is an important area of focus too. These women have a longer-term perspective on farming, so vital to save our planet. I should add that there are many men who have joined the good cause over the years.
Wanda’s Tree will be published before Christmas. (I have my fingers crossed; would you cross yours too?) Find out more about my novels on my Amazon Page: