JUGGLING a professional life with motherhood is not always an easy task. Throw being a farmer’s wife into the mix, and you’ve got a lot on your plate.

One person in that exact position, but who seems to take it in her stride, its Catriona Gemmell.

She has her fingers in numerous pies and does so with nothing but a smile on her face.

Brought up on a farm and now bringing up her own young family with husband Tommy on his family farm, she told The Scottish Farmer how she combines her many interests, and which she thinks the farming lifestyle is one of the best ones going.

Were your family from farming?

I was brought up on a farm, yes. My parents had a beef and sheep farm near Dumbarton.

I always enjoyed helping out and being involved but I also went through the usual phases of increased and decreased interest, but I was always out there. My favourite time of year was – and still is – lambing time!

Did you know what career path you wanted to take?

In a word, no! I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left school.

I went to Auchincruive, but to do environmental studies and I very quickly realised it maybe wasn’t for me. About two thirds of the way through the first term I changed to a course in agriculture, and that was that.

All of my friends were agrics, so in that way it made sense too. I made some great friends when we were at college. I’m still friends with so many of them today.

How did you end up working in farm secretarial work?

I did the milking and lambing parts of my course at Roseheath and I did that for three seasons, going back and in the summers as well to help with the milking.

Unfortunately, though I then hurt my back and that became a bit of a long-term issue.

By this time, I had met my husband, Tommy, and his friend suggested becoming a farm secretary when the physically side wasn’t proving good for my back.

So, in 2008 I went for a job with Promar International, and I was there until 2013 when I fell pregnant. We’ve got two kids now, Jamie who’s five and Katie who’s three.

What happened after that?

I didn’t want to go back fulltime so after I left Promar I set up on my own and gradually built up my client base. I made connections and met people in lots of different ways, so it worked out great.

What does your job entail?

I do a variety of things for my clients. Everything from bookkeeping, to livestock recording, payroll, admin… counsellor, babysitter, dog sitter! The last ones are maybe a wee bit of an exaggeration, but I do find that I end up getting on really well with my clients and we become parts of each other’s lives.

You build up a lot of trust and end up feeling part of the family, which I love. My clients are all really supportive of me and I get on so well with them. I don’t take on too many clients so that I don’t compromise the one to one feeling or feel like I’m not dedicating the time I want to, to the people I already work with.

Do you like working for yourself?

I love it.

One of the main differences I found working for myself is, although I still travel a fair bit, I’m not quite as all over the place as I was with Promar, so that works better with the kids and things like that.

I have a client on Bute but, give or take half an hour, my rule of thumb is that my clients can be up to an hour away.

My Bute client sends me stuff every month and I visit every quarter, so that works out great. I love going over.

Would you recommend your job to people?

Definitely! I love my clients, and my job and I love that it allows me to help out at home when I need to as well. Farming is a great way of life so it’s lovely to be able to have that in both my personal and professional life.

I love the farming lifestyle and being able to help out, but it’s really nice having something away from the farm as well that gives me a bit of ‘me time’.

Our wee boy is really keen on the farm and it’s lovely to see him getting out and involved with his daddy.

You meet a lot of people that seem to almost pity farmers wives, but I have no idea why, it’s a brilliant way of life and a great way to raise your family.

Are you involved in any other organisations?

I’m quite heavily involved in the Scottish Women’s Institute. I set up a SWI group about two years ago, and it’s held in my local church hall and I’m now Baldernock chairperson.

My mum has been in the SWI for years and it does have a bit of a reputation of being more for older ladies, but I wanted to show that it’s not like that at all.

I did try other local groups and the age demographic in them was definitely a bit older so that’s why I decided to go it alone and encourage women my age to come.

How did you end up setting up your own group?

I got the word out on social media and in the local press and things went from there. I’ve never been more nervous than before that first meeting, but 25 people came!

Some were farmers wives; some were other local people. People came a distance because younger women fancied it.

It’s maybe not the best attended group but we have a good core and we have a great laugh. We meet once a month and we’ve found that we prefer demonstrations to talks, so we tend to go down that route.

With new groups you don’t always have to do the ‘traditional’ stuff, it’s more of a social group.

I’m SWI chairman but I don’t think I would go on as treasurer. It would seem like work then and I like having it as my social life.

I also find that groups like that are a bit different from non-farming voluntary groups. There doesn’t seem to be the same stresses or back biting, so that’s lovely too.

I was in Loch Lomond Young Farmers when I was younger and I think once you’ve been involved in that kind of set up, you get the bug.

Do you have interests outwith farming?

Making friends out with farming is definitely a bit different but I’ve built up a great circle of friends through the kids and it’s actually really nice to have the best of both worlds. You find that some people are interested in farm life and some aren’t, and you can’t judge people for that. Each to their own!

We go on a family holiday each year – usually to Yorkshire – and without doubt in incorporates a visit to a show or a market and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We love it.

Are you involved in anything else, professionally?

I’m also involved in the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators.

The IAgSA is a professional body that you pay dues to, but I think they good thing about it is is that it’s specifically agriculture based.

You can do training through it and they put farmers in touch with bookkeepers so that’s quite handy.

I got involved after I went to a Women in Agriculture event and met Gilly, the IAgSA secretary. I was a lapsed member but she put me in touch with Alistair and Alison and together we set up the IAgSA Scotland West branch last year.

We’re still very new but we definitely encourage anyone to come along.

Our aim is to hold meetings and training days that will help farm businesses or farm secretaries or administrators. I also just think it’s a great way of meeting like-minded folk!

You can’t have much, but how do you spend your spare time?

I really enjoy running. I used to think I was rubbish at it and that I hated it but, I’m not saying I’m great at it, but I really enjoy it now.

I run with Jog Scotland, Milngavie and I’ve got a wee group of running pals locally, so there’s always somebody to go out and about with.

I started going out regularly about two or three years ago and I find that it’s a great stress reliever. I also do the Daily Mile with the school, so that’s nice involvement with the kids.

I’m on the school PTA and I used to be on the Campsie Show committee, but now I just help out with the bar. My husband says I’m never at home but I just like to keep busy. I love being involved in all my different things and I just think it’s great that I can work them all alongside each other.

I also go to the local book group, but I’ll happily admit that that’s sometimes more for the wine and the chat than the book. Now that the kids are a wee bit older I feel like I can do these things.

What are your plans for the future?

As far as the future is concerned, I think that making tax digital is going to have a real knock on effect on my professional life.

It changes the roles and dynamics of what needs to be done within a farm business, so we’ll just need to see how that goes.

I don’t want to take on too much – I've the capicty for another few clients – but I like being able to focus fully on my existing clients.

A lot of farmers are being forced to computerise things and the industry is an ageing population so it’s not always easy. I want to be able to help them.

So many farmers don’t see what they’re doing as a business, but it very much is, and that’s where people like me can come in – we can help people!