Although Alice Hodges’ parents work in primary education and IT, she has always been passionate about animals and grew up in close proximity to a dairy farm.
“I started helping out with milking when I was about 15 and have never looked back!” the Cheshire, U.K native told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“It had gotten to the point where I was going to have to decide what I wanted to do after I finished my GCSE’s.”
“My neighbour, who I use to babysit for, asked me if I wanted to have a go at milking one weekend – I agreed and that was that.”
With her eyes firmly fixed on dairy farming, Alice completed a three-year Extended Diploma in Agriculture at Reaseheath College before attending University of Reading where she gained a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Business Management.
The 24-year-old moved to Ireland in August 2018 after finishing her degree. “I didn’t have a farm to go home to, so I was going to have to apply for jobs away from home, and with my boyfriend living and farming in Kildare it made sense to look for jobs here too.”
It took Alice six months to secure a position in agriculture; she worked in a hotel when she first moved to Irish soil. “I felt like I had taken one step forward, in gaining a degree, and taken ten steps back, in not being able to find a job!”
“It was also hard to be starting all over again in terms of making new friends in a brand-new country. I’m not ashamed to admit that as an adult it is hard to make friends!”
Joining local clubs and sports teams helped the UK native to cross paths with like-minded people; she is a member of Leinster Netball Club, Celbridge Paddlers Club, and her local Macra Ne Feirme club where she recently represented Kildare in the 2019 Miss Macra Festival.
Alice works as a relief milker at St. John’s Dairy in Castledermot, Co. Kildare; the farm consists of 250 cross-bred cows which are milked twice-a-day through a swing-over herringbone and housed outdoors all-year-round.
“At the moment, my day consists of milking, taking on average 2.5-3-hours. Come the spring, I hope to be the farm’s calf rearer.”
“I enjoy the physically demanding roles that come with farming - a job that comes with a built-in gym session.”
“I don’t think I’m built to be sat still behind a desk 9 to 5 every day.” she laughed.
Women in Ag
Alice said she is “constantly overlooked” by some visiting sales representatives and some vets who will address the man standing next to her, even when there is a query in relation to her specific roles on the farm.
“And as quite a quiet and reserved person, I find it hard to always stand up for myself,” she admitted.
“In my current position, I am treated equally but there have been some employers in the past that have definitely treated me differently simply because I’m a woman.”
“I’ve been asked by previous employers if I thought the farm was suitable for a girl or if he should only hire boys after me!” she explained.
Alice believes it is important to keep championing women in ag to encourage the next generation to consider farming as a viable career to pursue, even those who do not hail from a farming background.
“Even when I was first starting out in farming, I was attempted to be persuaded out of it - I was asked if I would rather be a hairdresser or a secretary or something else.”
“I think the most devastating thing that has ever been said to me was that I should just be careful as I could be replaced by a boy who’d be able to do the job quicker and better purely on the belief that a boy is stronger and better.”
Believe in yourself - You are more than capable of achieving and thriving in this industry - that's her advice to women who are embarking on a career in agriculture.
“It can be daunting walking into a discussion group or a mart and being the only girl in a sea of men, but hold your head up high and know your worth.”
Alice’s short-term plan is to continue to work with talented and passionate farmers to learn as much as she can to aid in the long-term goal which is owning her own farm with her boyfriend.
“For me, being a woman in agriculture goes hand-in-hand with being a first-generation farming entrant.”
“I do feel I’ve had to work twice as hard to be seen as even half as good as my male counterparts.”
“I’ve also met so many people on my journey who’ve given unconditional support and guidance along the way and I would have been lost without them,” she concluded.
If you are a woman in agriculture and you want to share your story, email – email@example.com – with a short bio.