Photographer Jeff Mitchell has been spending time with farmer Carole McKenna who farms beef and sheep on Gass Farm in Newton Stewart in Scotland which has been in her family for 82 years. She is one of the growing numbers of women in the UK who are choosing a career in farming which is traditionally considered a male dominated job. Recent figures show there are currently around 23,000 female farmers in the UK.
I first met Carol McKenna, a female farmer at a charity sheep shearing event at Newton Stewart market. I had heard Carol talking on the radio about the event “Lady Shear” that morning and I thought, there is a picture there! So off I went for a day in the country.
The market was filled with the sound of clipping machines, and pumped up high energy music and ten girls throwing sheep around like a Brian Jack judo master class. It was great for pictures and the papers lapped it up with several spreads in the next day’s editions.
Talking with Carol over a cup of tea, I persuaded her to let me come to Gas Farm which has been in her family for 82 years. I explained that I wanted to show what it’s like being a woman doing what has got to be one of the dirtiest jobs around.
Carol has been working on the family farm in Kircowan in Dumfries and Galloway for the last ten years. Most days start around 6am, even earlier during lambing season and she will regularly do a twelve to fifteen hour day often in the pouring rain with howling gales, tending to the 90 cattle and 500 sheep.
I visited Gass Farm on several occasions over a period of about eight months and I think it was only dry on one day. My favourite image from the set is the one with Carol and her sister, Jane grappling with one of the cattle while the vet was dehorning them. The work is physical and the environment is harsh. Regardless of gender, it would make most people wonder why it has to be in your blood.
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