Discover a Day in the Life of a Farmer
In this blog, we visit a livestock and arable farm in Shropshire, UK, to learn about a career in farming.
Our EIT Food Day in the Life series is an educational resource aimed at young people and professionals who are interested in the agrifood job market. We profile a wide range of careers in the agrifood sector, interviewing professionals to find out what their job is like, why it is important, and how you could take up the profession.
You will learn:
- What a typical day is like as a farmer
- The main responsibilities of a farmer
- Why this industry matters to our wider food system
- How you can take up this career path
Meet James Evans, a farmer at Partridge Farm, where they raise cows and sheep and produce some arable crops. James explains how their organic farm works, the benefits it brings to the environment, and the routes you can take to become a farmer.
What does a typical day as a farmer involve?
On his farm, James raises cows and sheep for meat produce and grows arable crops. As a farmer, James has an important job – to produce food for us to eat! Each day James must tend to his livestock, to ensure they are safe, healthy and happy.
“A lot of time is spent checking on the animals, going round and making sure they’re okay, making sure they’ve got feed and water and generally checking on their wellbeing.”
With regards to his crops, James manages the crops throughout their life cycle to ensure his yield is nutritious and of high quality.
In particular, James in passionate about ensuring his farm works in harmony with nature. To do this, he is increasing biodiversity on his farm by planting mixed species of grasses that attract different species of insects.
Why is farming an important industry to work in? What are the biggest challenges in the sector?
Farming is a fundamental element of human society because it produces the food that we need to eat to survive. However, farming faces a number of challenges, including how to produce food for a growing population whilst decreasing negative environmental impacts. Agriculture contributes greatly to greenhouse gas emissions, yet it can also help to mitigate against climate change.
James sees Partridge Farms as “part of the solution to climate change”, because they have adopted practices that aim to protect the environment:
“The way we are grazing our animals is enhancing our soils and enhancing our environment. We’ve got an abundance of butterflies and bees and insects on the farm and because of that we’ve got a lot more bird life and the farm is really flourishing.”
Another challenge that James’ farm is trying to address through their organic, environment-centric approach based on “working with nature”:
“Modern agriculture has encouraged us to grow more and grow our produce into a commodity. When you realise there is a different way of producing food that is beneficial to everybody, it’s a real feel-good factor.”
What projects does a farmer work on? For example, what are you working on at the moment?
Farmers are increasingly working on different projects to make their farms more efficient, resilient and sustainable. Planting mixed species of grass- also known as “herbal lays”- is a key initiative currently being undertaken at Partridge Farm to boost biodiversity. Ensuring they have a good range of plant species helps to attract insects like bees and butterflies, leading to greater overall biodiversity and farm health.
Biodiversity is also boosted by erecting fences, which navigate where animals should go to graze. This enables the farm to “replicate what nature did thousands of years ago”. Previously, predators ensured animals moved around and regenerated different grasslands, whilst electric fences perform this function today. This livestock grazing system also helps to address environmental challenges:
“That is allowing the soils to recover, allowing the plants to recover, we are increasing the organic matter and improving the biology in the soil all the time. What that’s doing is capturing carbon and putting it back in the soil where it comes from.”
How to become a farmer
Traditionally most farmers come from farming families, however today there are different pathways into a career as a farmer, such as:
- Research the type of farming you would like to do
- Go to agricultural college or get another professional qualification
- Apply for work experience on a nearby farm
- Work for a farm management company
- Become a farm contractor, e.g. local tractor driver
- Join a farm apprenticeship scheme
- If you have the land you could start your own farm, but be aware that there are regulations you must adhere to
James highlights that the profession is evolving and there are numerous ways to get involved:
“Coming from a farming background isn’t a prerequisite for working on a farm, and some of the best farmers are people who haven’t been brought up working on a farm. I would encourage anyone to apply or go to an agricultural college or anything like that, because there are lots of pathways into my career.”
What is the best part of the job?
For James, being outside in nature is what he enjoys most about this job. He is passionate about rearing his livestock and growing high quality crops.
“Being out and about in the weather on your beautiful farm on a sunny day, there isn’t many jobs that could beat that.”
However, James does also acknowledge that farming isn’t for everyone, as the unpredictable weather can deter some people.
“On a cold, rainy or snowy day, there’s plenty of jobs which will beat farming.” Ultimately, however, the best part of the job is that “every day is different and full of surprises!”
James sums up being a farmer in three words:
About EIT Food’s Day in The Life series
EIT Food’s Day in the Life Series is a video series that explores the variety of careers that our agrifood system has to offer. The aim of the series is to raise awareness of the range of high-skilled and highly rewarding jobs that the food and farming sector has to offer and inspire younger generations to consider one of these careers for themselves. This series is a part of the EIT FoodEducator’s programme.