Quoted by Radio 4?s women’s hour as a progressive woman in Agriculture and Farmers Weekly 2013 Farming Champion finalist, Milly Wastie is passionate about the promotion of British Agriculture and the diversity in career opportunities available. Former NFYFC Chairman and road safety advocate, R.A.B.I. (Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) East Midlands regional manager, small food producer, farmers wife in training and country loving sweetheart.
“…When I asked the Secretary of State for Agriculture a question in front of a 2,000 strong farming audience, and my question wasn’t answered properly, I was straight back on the podium to ask the question again to make a point! I got a standing ovation!..”
I’m not from a farming background; however I have well and truly made my mark well within the Agricultural industry, hopefully pathing the way for others to follow too. You may be thinking, how can you make your mark if you didn’t grow up on a farm? It’s not quite the career option you can just walk into.
Growing up in a rural area helped, however it was thanks to the Young Farmers movement which gave me the confidence, understanding and platform to succeed as well as sheer grit and determination that saw me where I am today.
Farming stereotypes are changing; you don’t have to sit on a tractor all day or milk cows
The stereotype of a farmer is changing and it’s a very exciting time to be involved in agriculture. Equality between gender is becoming more balanced as science and technology plays more at the forefront. As the population increases, more food needs to be produced with less resource available, less water, less land, whilst managing the environment too. And after all everyone needs to eat!
It’s not been an easy ride for me. I’m not going to lie! However I’m passionate about the wonderful career opportunities available within the farming industry. You don’t have to sit on a tractor all day or milk cows to be involved in the industry.
Today’s agriculture; so diverse and something for everybody
Today’s agriculture could see you in the marketing of food, campaigning for change or maybe in bio-tech leading the way with new crop science to combat pests and diseases. It’s so diverse and there is something for everybody.
My first involvement was through the young farmer’s movement, meeting like-minded young people who lived and worked in the countryside; learning new skills from stock judging to fence erecting, cake making to flower arranging and visiting many farms and businesses too.
Whilst I was very academic at school, I didn’t care very much for going. I guess I was classed as too much of a country bumpkin as town children do tend to grow up faster than their rural counterparts and I had a very lush and naïve upbringing. So basically my face didn’t fit and I was tormented quite frequently.
A channel for my enthusiasm
Young Farmers gave me the starting opportunity to channel my enthusiasm to organise fundraising events, lead meetings, learn about public speaking and make so many friends who didn’t care what you wore, what you did each day, they were just interested in being part of a team and having fun.
Six years ago I started working for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution which is farming’s national charity and provides financial and practical assistance to the farming community when they fall on hard times.
To give a better understanding, the charity is almost the equivalent to what the armed forces charities provide for fallen troops and their families with provision of mobility equipment, adaptions around the home and grants to farmers and their dependents when they suffer an illness, disability or are involved in an accident for example.
Grew into the role
The skills I had learnt from young farmers, together with my previous charity work saw me grow into the role and I soon progressed to become an ambassador for the charity, being well known throughout my region with the networks I had forged.
With the very nature of the job it means I spend a lot of time with the farming community. I remember walking into a room full of men at an NFU meeting, to give a presentation on the charity and how they might like to get involved.
Like being throw into the lion’s den
They didn’t particularly make me feel welcome at all and grilled me at every possible moment. Whether they were testing me because I was young, my credibility for working within the industry or because I was a women, I’m not sure, however it was like being thrown into the lion’s den and I wasn’t going to stand for that.
So now when I give presentation I really do sock it to them and don’t give them any opportunity to make me feel inferior.
Here is where I can prove I have shaped the way within the industry and that’s when it comes to public speaking at farming conferences. I may have got a name for myself, or maybe even a reputation!
Challenging the norm of stale, pale and male line ups and inspiring others to get up and have a go
I have challenged the norm of the stale, pale and male line ups which frustrates the hell out of me and when I’ve got a bee in my bonnet I just can’t help myself , standing up with a loaded question.
When I asked the Secretary of State for Agriculture a question in front of a 2,000 strong farming audience, and my question wasn’t answered properly, I was straight back on the podium to ask the question again to make a point! I got a standing ovation! And I also think it’s important that young people get their opportunity to speak so I hope I have inspired others to get up and have a go.
As I have grown and become more well-known and well liked, I’ve struggled with some people, particularly older women, who have been unpleasant and jealous. I’ve been bullied to the point of having to take action. This was a particularly dark time for me and I’ve learnt a lot of life lessons quite early on, especially that not everyone wants to see you doing well.
Trained my mind not to waste time dwelling on others and focus on making a difference
However you definitely know who your friends are and who to surround yourself with. I’ve tried to take as many positive things from all of my experiences and train my mind-set to not waste my time dwelling on others but focus on how I can make a difference.
My future is bright. I’ve got so many wonderful things ahead of me. I’ve currently got a wedding to plan as I’m marrying my best friend, Andrew, who happens to be a farmer!
I’ve got a project on the farm with some rare breed pigs, adding value to their meat by producing sausages, air dried ham and chorizo. I love doing media work promoting British produce and communicating where and how food is produced and have set up my own website www.millywastie.com to offer motivational and public speaking opportunities wherever there is a platform.
I’m still flying the flag for R.A.B.I. and continuing my advocacy work to promote agriculture as a career option too.