“When things go well, farming is exceptionally rewarding” – Mary Brough

Farmer Mary Brough stars in the Abbot Hall Art Galley exhibition “Tracing the Landscape: Cumbrian Farm Women”.

Focussing on women who make their mark in the male-dominated world of agriculture, the multi-media exhibition has been created by artist Patricia MacKinnon-Day.

Patricia spent a year with five farm women across Cumbria. Aged between 30 and 80, some have managed farms for generations, others are newer to the sector.

One of the farmers, Mary Brough (pictured below), took time from her busy schedule to speak about her life. And share some fantastic images she’s taken documenting her daily work.

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Selfie with her sheep: Mary Brough

What does your farm specialise in?

My farm is Chapel House Farm in Uldale. Sheep farming is my main enterprise. The females are sold to other farms for breeding ewes and the males are sold for meat as hoggets at approximately a year old. We also sell wool but that now only covers the cost of shearing. I also rear dairy heifers for my husband and son’s dairy farm and produce a small amount of beef from cattle used as environmental grazing.

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Spring is sprung ©MaryBrough

How does it feel to be a woman farmer?

I don’t think of myself as a woman farmer, just a farmer with strengths and weaknesses like anyone else. Maybe this is because I’ve been doing it a long time and earned the respect of my local colleagues.

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Wild winter ©MaryBrough

What’s it like being part of an exhibition?

I found participating in the exhibition interesting as I got to meet other women involved in farming. Farming on an isolated farm involves spending a large amount of time with just sheep and dogs for company.

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What challenges are there to women farmers in 2018?

I don’t think the challenges I face are any different to men doing the same job. As most of the population is now divorced from the land, a lack of understanding of how food is produced and how the landscape and farming are intertwined, are the biggest problems we face. Also misinformation spread by activist groups is a huge problem.

Mary Brough 5

How does summer farming compare to the winter?

Farming is busy year-round and each season has its own jobs. But for me personally the constant battle with the wet and cold in winter and spring are the biggest problems.

What message would you give to young people (and especially girls) becoming farmers?

My type of hill farming is physically and mentally demanding. Anyone starting off should be prepared to work long hours and give it their all. It is a lifestyle not a job.  When things go well it is exceptionally rewarding. I put up with a lot for those special magic moments.

Mary Brough 6
Tracing the Landscape: Cumbrian Farm Women, is on at Abbot Hall Art Gallery until closing time on Saturday 9 June 2018.

Author: Lakeland Arts

Lakeland Arts is a leading arts charity based in Cumbria, in the North West UK and manages Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, both in Kendal, Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House in Bowness-on-Windermere and Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories on the shores of Windermere.

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