Support for aspiring farmers: Where is it?

I would class myself as an ‘aspiring’ farmer, purely because I don’t have extensive amounts of knowledge, stock or resources to be able to class myself as a farmer, also it isn’t my full time job (unfortunately).

As I venture more deeply into the world of wellies and waterproofs I can’t help but notice,

Where do people get their support from to farm?

More importantly,

Where do they get the finances from to support their farming?

 

Obviously established farmers have the support of the local farming community to aid them and likewise will often have a reliable source of income from their farm, but I’m talking about aspiring farmers or newly started farmers, people like myself, people who have the dream and the plan but lack the all-important time or money factor to spare.

Other countries offer incentives and schemes so why cant we?

Canada- Financial Support for Aspiring Farmers– Take a look at what Canada offers!! (green eyed monster appears- relocation??)

I think that when it comes to breaking into a new venture, especially one such as farming, it is a rather vicious circle to break out of to ensure you get your foot (or hoof) on the starting block.

For example, my own vicious circle, I work 6 days a week to ensure I can earn enough money to contribute towards my house, my food and to look after my 6 four legged friends. This naturally takes up the majority of my time meaning that, especially in the winter, renovations or construction of necessary resources to enable me to farm effectively cannot be carried out and it also means that I spend more and more days without a farming life to enjoy and thrive off.

Some of you may be thinking ‘Well if it’s something you really want you’ll crack on!’.

Crack on I do, believe me, but there’s only so much fencing you can do by lamplight on a mountain without snapping an ankle and sorting out my allotment in the near enough darkness? Impossible, how do you tell the difference between Mint and Nettle may I ask?!

Perhaps taking on a farm that needs a fair bit of work was a big step for a young couple, however, shouldn’t someone out there be taking an interest in supporting people like myself? Especially in the current climate the UK is finding itself in, with all uncertain effects Brexit is going to have on the Agricultural Industry, surely supporting people wanting to be self-sufficient should be something worth pursuing?!

me-and-frec

I’m not suggesting that extensive amounts of money has to be provided, merely perhaps a help service, a financial scheme, farming financial and business planning, farming knowledge seminars. The possibilities are endless, it would just need to be somewhere people like myself can go to or to join so they can learn and therefore develop their own farms without feeling like a lost sheep (get it?)

This may be seen to be spoon feeding the aspiring farmers which isn’t entrepreneurial or innovative, something which apparently seems to be a very popular concept nowadays, but with farming not only human and animal life is at risk, is it something that shouldn’t be entirely innovative or risky when it a new concept for a person?

In all I think it is a great shame that there isn’t something as extensive a forum or organization for aspiring farmers. It would mean that people like myself who have a large quantity of land to farm to further contribute to the local and wider community could gain the guidance and perhaps financial support they need to make it a reality. Due to the uncertainty of the UK’s future I believe this aspect should particularly become more of a focus.

Besides who doesn’t want to see more like minded people chasing sheep, clad in poo encrusted wellies and waterproofs.

sheep-chasing

Stealing Christmas trees and a foxy affair

We went Christmas tree shopping last night, as the name suggests, it wasn’t quite shopping in the modern sense of the term. I having no idea brought along my purse and my partner brought a saw, alarm bells should have rung at that point. When we drove past the tree farm and instead started to take one of the old, disused tracks into one of the countless forestry’s in Wales I realised we were shopping organically. Stupidly I should have noticed the lamp and ratchet straps by my feet, ‘So were not buying one then?’ as we began our 20-minute descent up into the mountain whilst we scanned the forest for trees.

He looked at me as if I’d just said I want to be vegetarian, ‘Look, no one buys a tree around here, think of this as community conservation’. Looking at it this way, in what was very good logic for him, maybe we weren’t stealing, especially when we found a lovely tree growing too close to another and its very bottom branches were dying. Naturally we chose this one and removed the dead branches, although I hate stealing (I once got dared to steal 3 penny sweets from the shop, couldn’t do it), this tree’s life was coming to an end and it was going to look lovely in our living room. As we carefully extracted the tree I noticed a small number of gaps within a thick clump of trees, they also looked like they had been carefully extracted, this type of community cooperation may actually be quite useful as a yearly occurrence and am happy to be involved in this form of ‘stealing’ especially if it ensures I have a fantastically smelling tree in my house.

Upon returning home with what some of you may think was ill gotten gains, we pulled up our drive and my partner left his car lights on to allow me to get up to the house without breaking my neck. Death by breaking neck on this occasion was less likely as I didn’t make it to the stairs without having a heart attack first. In between our two cars, placed very neatly behind my car were two dead foxes, two tailless vixens. I’m not scared of any animal dead or alive but that was definitely not something I would expect to find, no wonder the dogs were going mental in the house. We both stood there looking at them for a good 5 minutes, this was farming community at its finest, someone had obviously shot them on our farm land and then left them to let us know what a sterling job they had done. I would rather have preferred a note or a phone call although we still don’t know who did this.

I can’t deny when I find an animal dead I do feel sad, even if it was a snail I accidentally squashed,  I am an animal lover after all, however I have to remind myself that this is for the greater good and is undoubtedly a form of predator control, which again is conservation of our mountain land. As I felt sadness creeping up on me it caused me to remember Ernie my favourite sucky lamb last year, who when finally strong enough to go in the field was carried off by a fox, leaving behind his little bloodstained coat. This naturally devastated me, they say not to get attached but how could anyone resist not getting attached to a ball of fluff on legs that thinks you’re its mother, it seriously kicks  your maternal instincts into overdrive.  As lambing time is swiftly coming upon us (one of my favourite times of the year) I looked down at these admittedly beautiful creatures and thought well, if will give Ernie number 2 a better chance next year and hopefully save me the heartbreak then so be it. I think when you can look at a dead fox, feel no remorse, and think that’s at least 3 lambs saved and hopefully my job made easier, you’re a true country person.

christmas-tree

Country life is NOT glamorous

As my first blog post I wanted to write about the transition I have made into a fully functioning country life and how I have perceived this transition, mostly positively and occasionally negatively, you made read this and think of course, what did you expect from this sort of lifestyle ?!?!

I’ve always lived and been involved with the countryside, however the only recognisable country pursuits I was involved with growing up was equestrianism, although I did have a flock of pet sheep of which Dennis, the Ryedale, was my favourite who I used to bring into the house to read a book too, much to my mother’s distaste. Naturally, as a child I was always an animal lover, dirty, grubby and outside, usually collecting animals dead or alive and flowers. As I grew up I was minimally involved with the countryside due to university commitments besides horse-riding and working on a Welsh farm in the summer months. Now that I have finished University I have found myself somewhat bewilderingly fully immersed into what I can confidently describe is a country life which involves owning my own home and as the title states it is definitely NOT glamorous. Surprisingly my life is nothing like the lives and houses in magazines or on social media that I enviously studied.

I live on a sheep farm, on a Welsh mountain and in an enjoyably unpopulated area, not sophisticated, not elegant and not a clean cut and classical country life I used to be able to see myself living. The evidence for this can be provided by the current setting I find myself in. Imagine a gorgeous full wall fireplace setting and exposed wooden beams, however, add weirdly green painted alcoves and chintzy pelmets and curtains that are a gift from the previous elderly owner. Then picture, in front of the log burner that has gone out 6 times already, two hyper active 4 month old Hungarian Vizsla bitches who are scrapping over a bone whilst simultaneously shredding a newspaper and rocketing off each item of soft furnishing. Whilst they are doing this they are occasionally knocking into my cup of tea and bouncing off my very damp terrier who has burrowed under my freshly washed throws to dry off. Amongst this carnage, add the slight odour of pig poo that is probably emanating from my wellies drying off, these were hastily shoved on when after arriving home from work I found my three Kune Kune Pigs: Albert, Mildred and Buttercup had set up camp outside my back door after not deeming their field shelter adequate and consequently breaking out of their field.  Funnily enough my recently read Country Life magazines sat in front of me boast articles of well-trained gun dogs, the perfect log fire and the best way to cook leeks gourmet style, everything that is apparently not in my current life (I’ve never cooked a leek). I find myself hoovering, mopping, cooking, washing, dog walking, log stacking, sock hunting, feed handling, poo picking, sheep chasing, fence fixing and performing any and every task under the sun to ensure my farm can continue to grow and develop how I want it to, definitely not leading a glamourous country life like some of the people who up to 6 months ago I envied.  I no longer envy them and that is because despite my occasional moaning I wouldn’t have my life any other way. This life now is my ongoing project, our project and our chance to make what we want to work, work.

Last night I found myself sat on our second hand quad bike we got for free as my partner meticulously removed parts and fixed them whilst absentmindedly listening to my plans. I found myself saying ‘I just want’ over and over again, ‘next I just want chickens’ ‘I just want my vegetable patch up and running and I’ll just need my greenhouse fixing’ and then it was ‘I just want ducks, Border Leicester sheep, pygmy goats and mmm maybe a couple of donkeys’.

Now it seems farfetched, there is a lot of work to do but quite frankly the glamourous country life can walk because that would not be for me, I’m ready to invest blood, sweat and tears and shred my bank balance because I like the damp and dirt, I like the hard work and I love seeing the fruit of my labour, even if I gripe occasionally it is now even clearer that this life is perfectly suited for me. I couldn’t think of anything worse than leaving behind my partner in grime (not crime), my oddly designed house or my nutty, loveable and soon to be widely assorted collection of animals, yes it’s ok to dream but every day I’m realising more and more that somehow luckily I’m living it.

My plans now need to be set in motion fully and if it means I often have dirty fingernails, my eyebrows sometimes meet in the middle and I can’t remember the last time I wore a dress that’s ok. The unglamorous country life come at me, I’m ready to grab it by the horns (probably literally) and my Country Living magazines? Well they can perhaps remain as inspiration for cooking or for advice, better yet, they could become quite inspirational for encouraging the fire to stay lit!