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International Women’s Day: Philippa’s passion for provenance

Philippa Gray is a British wool producer and farmer representative on the English Northern committee. She is from a small family sheep and beef farm at home in West Yorkshire and here we caught up with Philippa to find out more about her passion for sheep.

Tell us about your flock…

Since breeding Pedigree Ryelands from the age of 14, I now run two pedigree flocks of Ryeland and Greyface Dartmoors alongside our main flock of Texel cross ewes. I show the Ryelands and judge them at agricultural shows across the country.

Do you have any particular favourites in your flock?

I try not to be too sentimental but I must admit I still have a few of my first homebred Ryelands that I have kept as retired ewes.

What is keeping you busy at the moment?

All of the pet lambs that need feeding!

What do you love most about your involvement with sheep/agriculture?

I love seeing how the flock develops as we look to improve breeding and try new things. After a long winter and lambing time, it’s great to turn out the lambs and see them doing well in the fields.

What do you love about British wool?

The Ryelands produce an excellent fleece and breeding them is when my interest in British wool began. British wool is a fantastic sustainable, versatile product. We have so many different types of fleeces in the UK that there is something to suit everyone’s needs. As farmers, we are very proud to produce high quality wool from high welfare sheep systems. I just wish that big industries could see the potential in wool for reducing our carbon footprint and plastic use.

What do you do when you’re not working on the farm?

I graduated last year from Harper Adams University, where I studied a BSc (Hons) in Agriculture with Animal Science followed by an MSc in Agricultural Sciences and Production Systems. Having finished university, I am now the Fundraising Manager for Innovation for Agriculture alongside working on the family farm.

What do you do to switch off and relax?

Sit down with a glass of wine and a good book

Have you found any particular challenges of being a woman in agriculture?

I think that the farming industry, and community, are very supportive of women who want to have a career in agriculture. Whilst there will always be those who assume women will struggle more, as with any industry, I have personally never felt that I did not have an equal opportunity to be a farmer compared to my male peers.

Do you have any plans for the future with your flock?

The past year has seen an increase in consumer concern over food security and provenance. Last summer we trialled selling lamb meat boxes to people in our community and the support was excellent. Over the next few years we hope to expand our direct sales and promote our low input, native breed meat to local residents. Not only has this helped our profit margin, but it has also been rewarding to discuss our sheep and farming systems with the public, and answer their questions about British farming.

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International Women’s Day: Philippa’s passion for provenance Philippa Gray - International Women's Day