In the world of farming, a lot of people have their fingers in a lot of pies.

Running a farm or being involved in the wider industry can often be a juggling act, and one person that probably knows more than most, is June Geyer.

Alongside her husband and two sons, June runs Geyer Plant Services at Shiresmill, Dunfermline along with a 220acre mixed farm of suckler cattle, cereals and grass.

Not fully stretched with these responsibilities though, June also has a busy schedule involving local and national agricultural shows, and she is one of the founding members of the original Women in Agriculture Group.

All of this combined makes her the ideal candidate to give us an insight into being female in the world of farming, and she took the time out of her busy day to give The SF an insight into how she keeps all of her ‘plates spinning’.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I was brought up in the agricultural industry. My father was an auctioneer and farmer, but when I was 15-months-old, he was injured, and the farm was sold.

He stayed in the industry though and from his wheelchair, started a meat wholesale business, travelling to markets, buying cattle. I really wanted to follow him into the family business, but he sadly passed away when I was 17, and just starting college.

Did you always want to work in the industry?

In a word, yes. After my father died I completed my course at Elmwood, now part of Scotland’s Rural College, and got a job as a farm secretary with the Milk Board. I travelled all around the country, to what they called their ‘miscellaneous areas’, and I did this for three years before getting a job as the East Area field officer for the Young Farmers, before becoming the jubilee officer, also for the Young Farmers.

I really did enjoy these roles. I was so involved in the industry, and met so many great people.

Is your own family involved in the industry?

Very. I married my husband John in 1989. He was running his family farm, while his brother was running their engineering business, all overseen by their father – as it still is!

Right from the very beginning, I did John’s farm books, and in 2005 we also took on the running of the engineering side of things, so we now have the farm and Geyer Plant Services – the engineering and contracting businesses.

The plant hire side of things has been going since the early ‘60s and it’s a real family affair, which is something we are very proud of. There are three generations involved just now! Our sons Hamish, who’s 26, and Robbie, who’s 22, are both working at home now.

What else are you involved with, locally?

I have been heavily involved in Central and West Fife Show for a very long time. I’ve been on the committee for just about as long as I can remember, and I’m actually just coming off from being the shows’ first lady chair, which was a great honour.

We think we might be the oldest show in Scotland, if not the country, having been on the go since 1760, so there is a lot of history and responsibility that comes along with being involved in it.

When I first started, the show committee was all men, so after speaking to some of their wives and other people involved in the show, we set up a lady’s group.

From that, we started bringing things to the show that were more aimed at women and children, and these things have all stuck. As much as the livestock and more agricultural parts of the show are fantastic, I feel like some of the new things we introduced really appeal to the wider public, that maybe don’t know about farming. In a way I feel like it broadened the horizon of the show, and I can happily say that there are now more women on the main committee, and it’s worked out great.

Are you involved in other shows?

Not so much now, but I have been. I was a director of the Royal Highland Show for seven years and that was a brilliant experience.

You don’t pick what your focus is as a director, so I was put on as the head of the forestry and poultry areas – two things I didn’t have a great deal of experience in – and I can honestly say it was fantastic.

In the poultry, entries rose from around 700, to over 900 which was brilliant, and in the forestry area, I managed to invite BBC Landward to film which resulted in Dougie Vipond climbing the famous poles that everyone notices at the show. I thoroughly enjoyed being involved in it.

How did you get involved in the Women in Agriculture group?

Sort of by accident! In April 2015, RHASS took a table of 10 at the Women of Scotland Lunch in Glasgow. I was one of the three lady RHASS directors with the remaining being women who worked in the agricultural field, and in spite of there being hundreds of ladies there, our table stayed together chatting the whole time.

And so we thought this would be a good idea to adopt – SAOS had also started building a women’s network so we joined together and called the initiative “Women in Agriculture”. The Royal Bank of Scotland kindly offered to host it at Gogarburn in November 2015 and off we went.

Since then, we’ve held two main events a year and they’re going from strength to strength. Our next event is on November 6 at Gogarburn, and tickets are already flying out the door.

What can people expect from Women in Agriculture?

There is so much that can be taken from the set up. Our theme this time is ‘making your voice heard!’, and that’s something we want to encourage all women in the industry to try and do.

We’ve set up mentoring groups and helped women get involved in industry-based courses. Generally though, we’ve found that it is just a great way of like-minded women all getting together, discussing various issues and learning from one and other.

We also have speakers from all aspects of the industry, so they give a really good insight into different areas of agriculture.

We want to help women to have the confidence to do what they’re capable of. At our group, you can have someone from the corporate world sitting alongside someone who physically runs a farm, and they all swap knowledge and experiences.

We give women access to practical advice through networking. They undoubtedly learn new tricks. It’s become an annual ‘go to’ event for many women.

Do you see a lot of difference between men and women?

I don’t feel like there should be a massive distinction, but I sometimes think women are better than men at putting things in action, but it’s showing them that they should be confident enough to do so that is key. Our group isn’t politically motivated in any way, we really are what we say on the tin.

I know from my own point of view, being involved in Women in Agriculture has meant that, as a family, we’ve done a lot of things like Land Registration and sorted out our family wills. These weren’t things I was really aware of before, but I learnt about them and was able to carry them out, which is great.

How do you view the role of women in the world of agriculture?

To me, women in agriculture isn’t about breaking the glass ceiling. Women don’t necessarily want to be ‘top dogs’ as such, they just want to learn what they can, and be the best they can be at what they want to be involved in.

It can often be the mindset of the people that work with women that can be the issue.

Women are just as capable as men, but they sometimes need to be more confident in showing that. Not everyone is cut out for top corporate jobs, but again, that’s not what women in agriculture is about. Not all men are cut out for corporate roles – it shouldn’t be a case of men versus women!

Both of my sons’ girlfriends are themselves, women in agriculture, in that that’s where they’ve chosen to aim their careers, so it’s great to see that the next generation are just as keen as we are.

What other interests do you have?

Horses. I love my horses. I’ve been an announcer at showing horse shows for years, and I love it.

I was the secretary of the Scottish Horse Show for 11 years, which hosts a lot of qualifiers for the Horse Of The Year Show, so I really got to work with the crème de la crème of the horse world, and the work that goes into it and the skill involved is just so impressive.

It is also a world where so many of the leading faces are female and nobody questions it, so a lot of sectors could take something from that.

I also took part in the Rural Leadership course two years ago and it was honestly one of the best things I have ever decided to do. The networking opportunities were just excellent, I’m still in touch with so many of my course-mates now – we actually have a Whatsapp group!

I also had the chance to learn so many new skills. I probably couldn’t pinpoint my favourite part of the experience as it was all great, but the people I met were certainly a highlight.

Do you have any plans for the future?

As far as the future is concerned, I don’t really see a lot of things changing, but I want to see the areas I’m already involved in, progressing.

I’ll still have my ‘past chair’ role at Central and West Fife Show, so that will still be a big commitment.

I’m also still keen to be as heavily involved in Women in Agriculture. I think the thing to remember about our group is, is that we’re not funded by anyone – government or otherwise, which is great in that we don’t have an end date as far as cash injections are concerned.

We’re supported by volunteers and people that want to help us, which is fantastic. The Royal Highland Society also plays a big role.

For the event in November we’ve charged £10 per head, which is the first time we’ve done that, but we hope that people don’t mind. Once we’ve covered our overheads we’re going to donate any excess monies to RSABI and the Air Ambulance Service, so that’s really good.

Do you have a final message?

I read something recently that said: “If a job is advertised and a man thinks he can only do 40% of what is asked, he will still apply for it. However, if I woman thinks she can do 60% of it, she thinks that’s not enough and doesn’t apply.”

I think that just sums things up. Confidence. If we can help even a small number of women build their confidence in themselves, then I’ll be a very happy lady!

☻ For more information on Women in Agriculture, search for Women in Agriculture Scotland on Facebook.