International Women's Day: Mother working for Arla discusses winning Female Dairy Woman of the Year

Sophie is using her story to inspire the next generation of farmers
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The woman who claimed the Female Dairy Farmer of the Year award last term, works for Arla, which has a major factory in Aylesbury.

Sophie Gregory has become an industry leader in the farming industry after choosing life on the farm over accountancy.

Sophie isn't from a farming background, but chose to follow her passion rather than remain in a desk-based accountancy role.

Now having thrived in a sustainable agricultural job, Sophie wants to open doors to others who grew up outside of farming families and improve education surrounding the industry.

She spoke to The Bucks Herald ahead of International Women's Day about her journey to owning and running her own Arla farm with her husband.

Sophie said: "I do a lot with getting young people into the industry, offering opportunities. We've had four people in on apprenticeships, two girls, two boys.

"Half of them have not been from agriculture backgrounds and they've started by working weekends. I'm really keen to offer opportunities to people who wouldn't get them.

Sophie and her little helperSophie and her little helper
Sophie and her little helper

"I think it helps that I'm not from an agricultural background, it shows them that there is a way in."

Sophie believes it's her work offering youngsters a clear pathway into farming which led to the major industry accolade.

As well as the apprenticeships her and husband Tom, offer at the farm, she regularly gives talks at schools about all the major topics regarding agriculture.

The mother of three wants more to be done to teach youngsters about the importance of cooking and knowing where your food is coming from.

Sophie Gregory with her familySophie Gregory with her family
Sophie Gregory with her family

Also, she thinks much more can be done from a career advice perspective to encourage talented people outside the farming world to get involved.

Sophie explained how her unconventional route into the industry has worked to her benefit.

She added: "I've got no set way of doing things. Farming can be quite traditional and be: 'it's always been done this way, so let's keep doing it that way'.

"Whereas, I can ask the questions. I want to know why we're doing it that way.

"I also think you need a lot of different skills to go into farming and make it work, the margins are so tight.

"You have to be always inventive, you can't stand still in farming now.

"I was never offered it as an opportunity, and it actually really fits my skill-set.

"I think there are so many people out there who would really enjoy it as a career."

Despite taking on an increased responsibility, extremely early starts and 70-hour working weeks, Sophie is still loving life on the farm.

Despite describing a level of commitment some would find daunting, she believes working on a farm has brought her family closer.

She explained: "Since leaving my desk job I take my kids to school every day. I start working at half four-five, I can milk the cows, a majority of them, by half seven, and then I can jump in the car by ten to eight.

"It has given me a work-life balance. Even though I'm working more hours, I've been able to work from home, doing something I love, and that's been a huge benefit to us as a family.

"Also, it's a really amazing way for them to grow up, like a really amazing way. And even if they don't go on to become farmers, they learn the value of life this way as well.

"Because they will experience deaths of animals, and they will get that sensitivity. They'll see new life being born.

"There's a wavy line between work and life, I'm very lucky that most of my friends do want to come on the farm, so I can spend time with them while working.

"I live on the farm, it's my home, I could say I work all the time, but it doesn't feel like work."

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