As part of 24 hours in farming, a campaign set up by the Farmers Guardian and Morrisons to celebrate farming, R.A.B.I spoke to seven members of its staff with a background in farming to find out what they love about the industry.
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Sally Conner, regional manager for the North East, farms in East Yorkshire with her husband, Mark. Together, they rear pigs on straw, which they then sell on to Packington Pork.
“I was brought up on a farm and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Sally. “I love the life and freedom, although it is really hard work.”
Sally and Mark have a good relationship with their neighbours, who they’ve made a ‘muck for straw’ trade arrangement with. “At harvest time we are extremely busy leading the straw to our farm and in return they get all the ‘natural compost’ for their land throughout the year.”
The farm is at the heart of the Conner family. While Mark works on the land full-time and Sally works part-time, their son often returns to help during busy seasons and their grandchildren are always keen to visit.
“Our farm has seen some bad times, but we’re now in a position to enjoy what we have – a farm that the grandchildren love to come to, healthy animals, the wonderful countryside, and our family around us.”
A number of R.A.B.I trustees are farmers, or have a background in farming. The trustees volunteer their time to help govern the work of the charity.
Joshua Hosier, who has been a trustee for four years, is a mixed arable farmer, a trade he inherited from his parents. He described his joining R.A.B.I as a ‘fortunate accident’.
Joshua explained: “I actually rented land from R.A.B.I, that’s how I came to know the charity. I’ve been quite fortunate with my farm, but others aren’t as lucky and that’s why R.A.B.I’s work is so important.”
On top of his repertoire of farming skills, Joshua is also a chartered surveyor. He uses these talents to support the charity and other farming people in financial need.
“What I love about farming is the connection to the countryside and the sense of place it gives you.”
Regional manager Georgina Lamb’s father, Frank, is a first generation farmer. Frank learned the trade from scratch after he bought some land and a barn. By the time Georgina came into the world, he had a small herd of suckler cows.
Georgina said: “I was born and bred on the farm. It was a fantastic place to grow up, I loved it. I class all of the cows as my friends.”
She has a particular fondness for one member of their herd, who she considers to be a family pet. “Prince is such a softie. He was born with deformed front legs, but I was determined to help him. After months of physio, we managed to get his legs straight. Three years on, he’s happy and healthy.”
Georgina isn’t the only member of her family to be involved with R.A.B.I. Frank is chairman of the West Yorkshire and Diana, his wife, is the secretary.
Tom Armstrong is one of R.A.B.I’s regional welfare officers. His role is to make contact with the people the charity helps and to find the right support for them, whether this is financial aid, advice, or help applying for benefits.
Before joining the charity, Tom was a farmer. He said: “My family were all farmers and I was a hill shepherd for over 20 years. I enjoyed working with livestock and being outdoors.”
After fifteen years as a full-time shepherd, Tom reduced his hours and started a job as a student advisor. He enjoyed being able to support people, but his heart was still in farming.
“When I saw the job ad for R.A.B.I I thought ‘that’s the job for me’. It fit perfectly and with the charity I can combine the two things I know so well.”
“I grew up in wellies on the farm where our family had been for more than 80 years,” revealed regional manager Jenni Green.
Jenni’s father was a sixth generation farmer who reared pigs, ewes, and a few suckler cows. Alongside her two brothers, Jenni grew up on their farm in Oxfordshire and helped out with day-to-day activities such as feeding and looking after the lambs.
“I loved being part of the farm as it was something we all shared – a family interest that we could all benefit from. Even now, 15 years since we left the farm, I catch up with friends we made there. That’s what makes the industry so special – there is a real support network.”
Although Jenni’s family have now left the farm, her parents having retired, she still has a keen interest in agriculture. “There is an old adage you can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl – and this is definitely true. I get so excited when I get to climb on board a tractor or help with a farm job.
“I am passionate about UK agriculture and that’s how I came to work for R.A.B.I.”
Verenique Beviere works in R.A.B.I’s Fundraising and Development department as a Coordinator. Although her family were not farmers, she developed an interest in the sector and is now a member of Abingdon YFC.
“After many protests of ‘but I’m not farmer’, I was convinced by a friend to go along to a YFC meeting with my local club. That was three years ago and I have since taken part in stock judging, a 200 mile tandem bike ride, a national tug-of-war competition and endless other strange and wonderful things.
“I was secretary of the club for two years and have learnt countless skills and made life-long friends. It really is true that you don’t have to be a farmer to be a ‘young farmer’.
“The most important thing to me about YFC and farming in general as a sector is the sense of community. Everyone wishes to help and support one another; you really feel like a part of something, which is very unique and special.”
“My family are fourth generation farmers and tenants of the Duke of Norfolk,” said Sally Field, regional manager for the South East. “My brother has a small dairy herd and my husband is a shepherd on the estate next door.”
Although Sally left the farm as a young woman, she continued with a career in agriculture after attending college. She was a shepherd for a number of years and still helps out during lambing season.
“I love working with animals, seeing them grow and thrive, and being in touch with nature. Being a farmer is a simple, quality way of life. I especially love the people. Countryside people are honest and down-to-earth. I don’t think there are people more decent or hard-working than farmers.”
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