Having once been told that to become involved in agriculture she had to marry a farmer, Rosie Carne is now the master of many, having recently taken the helm at the Worshipful Company of Farmers.
Emily Elfer went to meet her to find out more...
Master of the Worshipful Company of Farmers, Rosemary Carne – known as Rosie – was not born into a farming family.
In fact, when she told her school careers mistress she wanted to work in agriculture, the response was, ’we know nothing about farming, you will have to marry a farmer’.
Undeterred, and with help from her school, Rosie spent five days at a county agricultural college. Her love of farming also continued to blossom through keeping her horse at a friend’s farm.
She said: “When keeping my horse I was told ‘stand in a gateway; we are moving the sheep’, and to roll fleeces, as they were one short.
“I started to drive a tractor at hay making and corn carting and did my tractor test when I was 16 so I could drive on the road.”
Feeling motivated by those early experiences in the 1970s, but having been told that a farming career would be ’difficult for a girl’ Ms Carne decided to read agriculture at the University of Reading.
What followed was a 40-year career with international fertiliser business, Fisons Fertilisers (now Yara).
Across the decades, she worked in agronomic research and development, sales, marketing and communications and enjoyed a five-year secondment to Oslo where she was vice president of public affairs.
Ms Carne says: “I stayed with them for 40 years because I worked for a great company. It is heavily invested in research and development, and ensuring the fertiliser input has minimum impact on the environment both in the field and in the factories.”
She has seen the industry go through many changes, with the number of players in the production of seed, agrochemicals and fertiliser all reducing.
However, an exciting change during her career was the evolution of the internet and Ms Carne was tasked with launching her company’s first website.
“Though it was many years before we could reduce our printed material, it soon became a necessary tool for development and use of farmers’ advice and communications,” she said.
Ms Carne rose up the ranks from her initial role as a technical salesman to take on senior leadership positions.
In 2009, she returned to the UK from Oslo and became marketing and communications manager until her retirement in 2017.
Despite being ‘retired’, she is now serving as Master of the Worshipful Company of Farmers.
There are about 400 members known as liverymen, and all have farming connections: some are farmers, some are suppliers, others are rural lawyers, land agents and bankers.
“A main objective of the Farmers’ Company is to raise the profile of British food and farming in the City of London. At our Livery Hall near the Barbican, the food we serve is British and seasonal to endorse the importance of food provenance,” she said.
“There are 110 City of London livery companies. All are charities with a charitable purpose. The Farmers’ Company’s main charitable purpose is agricultural education.”
In addition, she is a fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society, a Fellow of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists and a member of The Farmers Club in London.
With her fingers in so many pies, she described retirement as ’regaining control of the diary’ and she has no intention of stepping away from the farming sector.
“Farming is not a just a job but a lifestyle,” added Ms Carne.
“Interests enjoyed in one’s own time become farming related, like agricultural shows, point-to-points and conferences. Farmers have to be experts in so many things: agronomists, mechanics, employment law as well as health and safety. It makes them really interesting people to work with.”
Looking to the future, she acknowledges that farmers are facing some big challenges, with the uncertainty of Brexit as well as the impact of ’food fads’ and veganism.
“We have seen food fads before such as rice/pasta replacing potatoes, and white meat replacing red.
The reduction in red meat and processed pork will continue as plant/insect-based protein becomes more acceptable,” she added.
“Another challenge is the ignorance of environmentalists not realising that farmers see themselves as custodians of their land during their tenure; so they invest in sustainability.
"We must stress that over 50 per cent of the UK is grass. Only ruminating animals (and anaerobic digestion plants) can utilise it effectively."