Molly Biddell is part of the Savills Rural Research team, specialising in agri-environmental policy, natural capital and net zero. She has recently been appointed as an ambassador for LEAF Open Farm Sunday. Her family run a diversified farming business in the west of Surrey, and she continues to muck in whenever she can.
I was two when my sister was born, and so preoccupied by farming that I asked if I could go to the dairy farm to see her – knowing no better than to assume that a baby meant another calf. Not particularly fair on my sister, or our mum.
My family has been farming on the western edge of the Surrey Hills for four generations. Fifteen years ago we switched from our herd of Guernseys to rearing 100% pasture-fed Sussex beef, which we sell direct to our customers. We also run the last commercial hop farm in Surrey, growing Fuggles hops for breweries across the UK.
As with all farms, everyone has always mucked in, and after graduating with a geography degree in 2018, I spent a year working for the business, doing everything from maintenance to management, calving to communication strategies.
A chance opportunity then led to a couple of months in Australia, where I spent time jillarooing on cattle stations in the outback, which was eye-opening and great fun.
When I came home, I knew I wanted a career that combined my enthusiasm for food, farming and the environment, but really didn’t know what that would be.
Having not gone to agricultural college, careers in the rural sector felt inaccessible, and compared to friends whose career paths were focused on the city or vocational professions, a job in the rural world seemed somewhat quaint and fanciful.
Then I lucked out, and joined Savills Rural Research team at the end of 2019. My role within the team centres around agri-environmental policy analysis, and thought leadership on natural capital, net zero and anything new and interesting that requires a bit of thinking about.
Our remit is very broad, we work with a range of people across the industry and it’s incredibly exciting to be in this job at a time when the rural sector is facing so much change from so many angles.
I believe that the next twenty years are going to be some of the most interesting that British farming has ever seen.
The rural sector holds solutions to many of the biggest issues society is currently facing – the race to net zero emissions, the need to improve diets, enhance physical and mental health and reverse nature’s decline.
Because of this, land management is becoming much more relevant and interesting to many more people – environmentalists, activists, investors and society in general.
Brilliantly, we are already seeing this. I am constantly inspired by young people who are gripping the bull by the horns and pushing for innovation and collaboration.
I’m passionate about the power of social media and the rise of ‘farmfluencers’ who educate, inspire and connect people to the rural world. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter make this so easy.
But nothing beats actually getting out onto a farm, and I am very excited to have been appointed a regional ambassador for LEAF Open Farm Sunday.
As the industry’s annual national farm open day, LEAF Open Farm Sunday is the perfect paradigm in how we can increase access to and understanding of all things food, farming and the environment. A
t home we welcome over 1000 visitors to LEAF Open Farm Sunday, and being able to give adults and children alike their first taste of farming is a real privilege. But there is so much more to do.
We need to encourage people of all genders, ethnicities and backgrounds into farming, put it on the syllabus and make sure entrance into a rural career isn’t siloed.
As I’ve said, in the rural sector, stereotypes tend to stick. But, increasingly, this industry is full of amazing women leading the way and doing inspiring things – from Minette Batters to Caroline Drummond, Kath Dalmeny to Charlotte Smith and Fiona Reynolds.
It is crucial that we shine a light on these achievements and bring the industry together to celebrate the power of diversity and inclusion. I am really lucky to have incredibly influential female role models from my time at school, university and so far in my career.
These women have motivated and encouraged me to pursue a job that interests and excites me. IWD ensures that businesses don’t become blasé, resigning gender equality to a thing of the past. In our industry, we need to strive for much more diversity and inclusion.
If we can continue to disrupt the status quo, and achieve this, the future of food and farming will be dynamic, progressive and exciting.