How a love of the great outdoors inspired me to become a farmer
I've always loved the great outdoors and being around nature and I suppose it was this which first encouraged me to study zoology and entomology before I decided to dedicate myself to a career in farming.
When I was a kid - I must have been 11 - I bought three chickens and had them in the garden at home. I remember them laying the very first eggs and I took those eggs, fried them and served them on toast to my family – this meant splitting two eggs between four people, so it was a bit of a stretch!
But it was the enjoyment of feeding those hens, watching them grow, and then seeing them creating produce which we then ate in our house that really stuck with me.
One of my early memories of farming is being on a smallholding which belonged to a friend’s father where he had Gloucester cattle, Dexter cows and Ryeland sheep – that’s where I got my love for livestock. I remember being on that farm and watching my first lamb being born on a very wet and windy January night (its name was Buttons).
I also spent time working in a wildlife park which had an arable farm attached, so I developed a real love of the harvest, baling and things like that.
These experiences really struck a chord with me which has stayed with me throughout my life.
It was probably my love of animals which took me into academia and the study of zoology. I particularly loved insects and learning about ecosystems - about how nature worked. I also started reading for a PhD in entomology, but as well as pursuing this academic route I never lost my love of the outdoors. I read all the books by John Seymour, such as The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency, and this kind of stuff really is a big part of who I am.
I wouldn’t describe academic life as dry and dusty, but everything was about testing theories - I was counting insects in a microscope and identifying little phorid flies, looking at the venation of the wings. It’s very precise and I suppose it’s a narrow corridor.
And then 9/11 happened in the United States and that made me really think about my life. I thought - I love what I’m doing but if I don’t go after what I’ve always dreamt of I don’t want to live with the regret. I’d much rather do something and fail than never try at all – I’m not going to be one of those guys on a bar stool going ‘do you know what I could have been?’.
We now farm pigs, turkeys and cattle, and we have an open farm as well as a restaurant, butchery, and a farm shop.
I would say, hand on heart, that I love what I do and I believe farming is the best job in the world. I would urge young people to consider a career in farming because it really isn’t an average life. Farming is a diverse, modern industry, which can offer a really satisfying career where you can really make a difference in the world.