When you talk to those outside of farming you realise that a lot of people really dislike their jobs, and spend their time waiting for the weekend to come, or their next holiday to arrive. Effectively they are wishing their lives away.

Farming is different, and while it is tying, involves long hours and a constant battle to pay the bills, most farmers do it because it is something they actually enjoy.

But we must also recognise that it is not a lifestyle that our children might want, and there is a fine line between encouraging someone into farming and leaving them with no option but to take over the family business.

Young people need to be given space to decide for themselves, and ideally that means spending time away from home, whether at college or in another job. There are too many examples around the country where young men in particular were expected to leave school and go straight to the farm, and have resented that for the rest of their lives.

The name might carry on, but the farm, at best, stands still.

Mechanisation has also greatly changed the industry over the last 30 years, and the physical barriers that perhaps once prevented some women from taking over the running of a farm no longer exist.

It is therefore welcome that MLAs on the Stormont Agriculture committee are to consider the issue of women in NI farming over the coming months (see page 8). Outside of farming, those businesses, community groups and organisations that have gender balance, simply operate best. The same principle surely applies to farming, and with full-time agriculture courses at Greenmount split evenly between young men and young women, it suggests positive change is happening.

NI farming needs young people irrespective of gender, but ultimately it is a career path that they must want to take, not be forced to take.

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