Began her career in farming at Eastbrook Farm, turning it into the organic farm that she still farms today as well as running the local pub and its restaurant
Appointed chair of the Soil Association, awarded an OBE for her services to organic farming
Became director of food and farming, Soil Association
Chaired the England Animal Health and Welfare Implementation Group
Appointed external affairs director of the National Trust
Made director of the Soil Association
Also chair of the Food Ethics Council, since 2002

Growing up, I had five, maiden great-aunts who were farmers. These women were going to market, going hunting, drinking whisky… They made their own cheese and butter, milked their own cows. It looked to me, growing up, like a much more independent and fun life than conventional women of the time were having. I loved their sense of humour and their spirit. I looked at them and thought, that's not a bad life to lead.

When I did go into farming, I had three challenges. One: I was female. Two: I was quite young. I was only twenty-four when I took over the management of the farm. And three: I had these 'organic tendencies'. The three together meant that I was under scrutiny! I often joked that our neighbouring farmers started to get very long necks as they drove past our fields. The hedges had been small and clipped and I let them grown up, so they had to crane their necks to try and see what this mad woman was up to.

I got over the feeling that I had to prove something quite quickly. Because when I actually got into the farming world, while I might have been an object of interest and gossip sometimes, I didn't meet outright prejudice or discrimination at all. Occasionally there were patronising attitudes but really nothing that bad. I do find that if women just get on and do it, on the whole the world just says, "Oh, okay, that's unusual but that's great."

I think women are instinctively drawn towards organic farming. More organic farmers are women – that's been a very marked trend over the last few decades. In conventional farming there have been far fewer. Women look further in front. It's a ghastly sweeping statement but if you look at the developing world, most farmers are women. But as soon as you start getting the big toys and machines involves, it starts to become a much more male industry. I think women are much more instinctively in tune with the idea of farming with nature rather than against it.

Women have always, historically, been bigger supporters of environmental causes and of supporting things around health and nutrition, which is a big part of the Soil Association.

I think I bridge that gap between real, practical farming experience and sharing the concerns of women about looking after the next generation, and that's quite helpful in understanding the balance within the organisation itself – getting both the practical and policy ends right.