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'Trailblazing' Women's Food and Farming Union votes to disband

After 37 years the Women’s Food and Farming Union (WFU) is to disband.
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A vote on the matter at a special general meeting (SGM) in London on May 12 was ’very close’ but was carried by a majority.

 

The union’s central executive committee is now working towards winding down this year.

 

The organisation was started in 1979 by three farmers’ wives in Kent; a response to the crisis in the horticultural sector when the country was flooded with French apples. It has campaigned on issues including sheep worrying and banning sky lanterns, and worked to connect producers and consumers.

 

Many of its initiatives, for example farming in the classroom, supermarket surveillance and promotion of British food at shows, are now being championed by other organisations.

 

Maureen Friday, WFU president, said: “We were trailblazers. Other groups with greater funding have now picked up our campaigns and are doing really well. I’m really proud of the organisation and what we’ve achieved.”

 

She added that women are now more likely to engage in politics and agricultural organisations than they were when the union started. “When I joined in 1982 I was often the only woman in meetings,” she said. “Now you see women in some of the top jobs.”

 

Former members of the union include Liz Truss, Environment Secretary; Theresa Wickham, non-executive director at New Covent Garden Market Authority and a number of senior figures in the NFU.

 

WFU branches in Kent, Yorkshire, the South West and Wales will remain open and operate at a local level.

 

"They have things they’re working on which they want to continue,” said Mrs Friday.

 

A final celebration to thank the members, friends and supporters who have contributed to the union over the years will take place later this year.

 

“It was a sad day,” Mrs Friday said of the SGM. “I’ve been a proud member of the WFU for over 30 years. However, it was also a day of celebration of all the amazing work that’s been achieved over the years by so many women in rural areas.

 

“With the ever increasing use of social media and the digital age, the message is being delivered to our consumers fast and effectively.

 

"Many of those who joined the organisation at the start have handed down the farm to the next generation or are now sadly working full time off the farm, supporting their farm incomes and therefore have less time to get fully involved. Some of our members are also involved in direct commodity groups dealing with specific areas of personal interest, such as Ladies in Pigs and Ladies in Beef."

 


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