On to pastures new

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It is with great sadness but a bit of excitement I can say I am moving on to pastures new and lusher – or so I’ve been told – in New Zealand.

Riding in the world’s biggest combine harvester one day, being kicked in the leg by an alpaca the next, and the day after liaising with members of the royal family.

It may sound like a rather unusual combination but that’s been my life for the past two years at South East Farmer magazine.

Now it is with great sadness but a bit of excitement I can say I am moving on to pastures new and lusher – or so I’ve been told – in New Zealand.

I suppose my international departure can partly be blamed on the many inspirational people I have interviewed during my time at the magazine, reminiscing over the years they spent mango farming in Costa Rica, transporting breeding pigs to South Africa by boat, or cattle driving on horseback through the Australian outback. So when I received an email offering me sheep work on the South Island of New Zealand my feet got a whole lot itchier.

It is perhaps not until I am leaving that I appreciate what the last two years have given me, not only from an experience point of view, but also from all the people I have met along the way and all that I have learnt about the industry.

From sitting in on government meetings on agricultural legislation to watching cattle sell at Ashford Market while chomping on a bacon butty, every event has been as valuable as the next.

My diverse adventures have confirmed to me that I am in an industry that holds great value to the UK with a community spirit so strong that I’m not sure any other sector could compete. Farmers and growers are positive and innovative despite the hurdles constantly being thrown at them, and probably the only bunch of people that will openly share their secret to success with you until the cows literally come home.

I’ve met some real characters along the way, from the tough as nails dairy farmer who cares for his cattle with the softest hand, to the Discovery 4 driving, Schoffel adorned arable farmer whose son probably joined me at Cirencester. But I’ve met many a stereotype breaker too, from the dairy girls milking in bikinis, to the multistorey council estate city boy turned agricultural adviser.

I distinctly remember one Kent farmer looking me up and down one day at market and exclaiming: “You’ve lost weight young lady!” – to which I responded with a confused frown. He bluntly continued: “I’m a sheep farmer. You think I don’t notice when an old girl’s getting a bit boney?”

Watching the industry from an outsider’s perspective has not always been as genial, as I’ve seen producers fight against the odds to keep their businesses afloat with little help or sympathy. From blockading milk processors, opening their lives up to the public by taking part in Open Farm Sunday, marching through Whitehall with a Jersey cow in tow, to parading their champion livestock around a ring at county shows, I’ve watched producers promote and educate in their own individual ways. But every farm I visit I observe the same power of commitment to their enterprise, an enthusiasm that I hope to carry with me.

It’s been a particularly exciting year to be a journalist, let alone one in agriculture, with Brexit mixing the opinions of many, government falling apart – or coming together in some people’s opinions – and an exciting but nerve wracking uncertainty in the air for what the future holds.

After meeting so many energised, positive and forward thinking next generation farmers in the region, it is evident that agriculture has a promising future with so many people passionate about this diverse and exciting industry, that I too am proud to consider myself a part of.

I’d like to thank all our readers, contributors and my colleagues for the support and kind words over my time here and for all the warm messages I have received about my departure – you are what truly makes the magazine. If you would like to follow me on my travels, I’ll be blogging and posting on Twitter.

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