A Perthshire farmer is involved in a team effort to help give a Scottish angle to celebrating the International Day of Rural Women – and publicise the role they play in a vibrant rural sector.

This special day takes place on today (Friday, October 15) and is aimed at celebrating women all over the world who live and work in rural areas. But, in Scotland, women’s contribution to rural life is often overlooked, according to the rural network, Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups.

Lianne MacLennan, national co-ordinator for the groups, said: “Women in rural areas are increasingly active in all kinds of traditionally male-dominated careers with it now no longer being a surprise to see women in these roles.

"In addition, they are undertaking a wide range of unpaid work and services which enable rural communities to survive and thrive. The mental strength and versatility of these women is worth celebrating.”

Women account for a substantial proportion of Scotland’s rural labour force. Their roles can vary from providing informal and seasonal work to making a significant contribution to agricultural production and natural resource management or running their own business.

Ms MacLennan continued: “Many women have a major role now within the rural economy, for example assisting in meeting the challenges of sustainable food production and others who are entrepreneurs creating businesses that support rural jobs.”

Beth Alexander is a beef and sheep farmer in Blairgowrie, Perthshire. Born and raised on an upland beef and sheep farm in the area, farming is in her blood, having farming with her grandparents, dad and siblings. She graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc in Agribusiness Management in 2019 and is currently undertaking an MSC in Agriculture Professional Practice.


Beth Alexander will be supporting the International Day of Rural Women for Scotlands Regional Moorland Groups

Beth Alexander will be supporting the International Day of Rural Women for Scotland's Regional Moorland Groups


As a member of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC), Beth is involved in the rural community and fundraises regularly. Recently, they’ve been volunteering at a local primary school for maintenance work and gardening and through various campaigns, they raised over £1100 for the RSABI (Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution) charity in 2020/21.

Beth told us: “The rural community in Scotland is varied, vibrant, and holds the key to so much of what Scotland has to offer. Conservation and productive farming methods go hand in hand.

"Diversity creates innovation and this is the opportunity women have to offer the farming and rural community. We are in pivotal times where we need innovative research and practices to drive our industry forward and create opportunities for the next generation. I believe there is never a truer statement ‘live each day as if it’s your last but farm like you’ll live forever’.”

Kirsty Cousins is based near Canonbie, in Dumfries-shire, and provides specialist dog training and breeding, as well as services for shoot days, operating all over Scotland. She established her business, Gorton’s Gundogs, over ten years ago and has never been put off despite being one of the few women in the field.


Kirsty Cousins with some of her gundogs - all will be supporting the special day

Kirsty Cousins with some of her gundogs - all will be supporting the special day


She pointed out: “I’ve been totally passionate about dog training since I was ten years old and I never wanted to do anything else. I think women have to prove themselves to a certain extent when they are starting out in this line of work but things have worked out well and we are always busy.

"Women are doing these jobs and making a major contribution to the economy but that isn’t perhaps always recognised. I am lucky that my husband supports me and does the secretarial work for the business and a lot of the cooking and cleaning, that is really invaluable.”

Mhairi Morriss, of Glad Rags Events, in Aberdeenshire, has built up her corporate events business from scratch over the past seven years. Her Glad Rags and Cartridge Bags started out with a focus on clay shooting for women of all ages and abilities, based in beautiful country houses and castles.

Now, the business has diversified to offer other experiences such as fishing, gardening, and dog training days. She said: “My aim was and still is to encourage more ladies into what is a predominantly male dominated sport to teach them how to shoot properly in a friendly, fun and relaxed atmosphere.

"With more than 1000 participants to date, there was a clear demand. The new services, such as fishing, enabled women to access another traditionally male sector on an equal footing.”

Glad Rags events generate additional revenue for the local economy too, as dozens of people often book overnight stays in local hotels and outside suppliers are contracted to provide instruction, catering and other relevant services.

The United Nations’ International Day of Rural Women takes place on October 15 and Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups will be supporting the day on social media.