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Joanne Coates

Daughters of the Soil: The Women behind Agriculture

Published on: 18 March 2022

Discover the women in agriculture across Northumberland and the Scottish Borders in an insightful and powerful portrait exhibition, Daughters of the Soil.

Captivating portraits

The exhibition is the cumulation of twelve months of research into the role of women in agriculture in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. Daughters of the Soil aims to redress the lack of documentation of female farmworkers, who have played a central role in agricultural progress throughout history, with captivating portraits of women's role in farming.

Women make up 15% of the farming industry in the UK, and their contribution is significant but often overlooked, with underlying barriers such as access to land, class, motherhood, and lack of clear leadership roles assisting this.

“The project offered the opportunity for me to chronicle the lives and stories of these women. Women aren’t as visible as men on farms, but we are seeing them more often,” says Joanne.“The female workforce are driving tractors, having a social media presence, and can be seen on the telly but they don't often inherit land or work in leadership positions.”

“In the arts, projects often get made by an outsider about areas, places, spaces, people they want to learn about. Especially in photography, depictions of rurality and gender came only from the outside.

“As someone who has worked as a farm labourer / worker, who lives in a very rural area with a partner who farms, this work offers a different perspective. For me it is a perspective often overlooked and not seen. I wanted to share this through the work. “

Photograph by Joanne Coates


During a residency with the Maltings and Newcastle University's Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) and Institute for Creative Arts Practice, Joanne worked collaboratively with Professor Sally Shortall, Duke of Northumberland Chair of Rural Economy at CRE, whose research focuses on gender relations in agriculture.

Professor Sally Shortall said: Joanne's work brings women's stories to life and capture the essence of their world. I’m delighted that this exhibition raises awareness of the important role played by women in farming today."

Joanne Coates' work has featured in The Guardian, BBC, Financial Times, The Telegraph and The British Journal of Photography. She is a winner of the Magenta Foundation Flash Forward Awards, and in 2021 she was a joint awardee of the Jerwood / Photoworks Prize, making this exhibition one not to be missed.

The exhibition will take place every Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm between the 2nd of April to 5th June at the Gymnasium Gallery, The Barracks Parade, Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 1DF. It will also be shown at Vane, Gateshead, in August 2022.


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