From A-level to driving a tractor
The Young Farmer column, by Joe Rabicano
Well, a warm welcome to the new young farmer column.
As I write this I am 18, just finished my final A-level exam, two days away from starting a full-time job on a country estate and in just under four months I take on a 42-acre farm for five years, rented to me by Norfolk County Council.
The latter is the reason I have been asked to write in the Lynn News as I hope to take you all through the start of my new venture.
My aim is to show the ups and inevitable downs that come with starting up any new business, give as much education as I can with my comparably limited knowledge on how the food we all eat on a daily basis is produced – and give everyone a few laughs.
My story in farming actually started a few years ago. I remember playing with a lot of tractors when I was very little and enjoying seeing sheep and cows, I even remember saying I wanted to be a farmer. But like most children the thought fades and a few days later being a fireman seems much more attractive.
I went through a wide variety of dream jobs until I started helping a local farmer at the age of 13. I was hooked from day one.
The first farm I worked on produced sheep, but I soon wanted to experience other farming styles, and soon spent time on beef farms, arable farms and even six weeks with dairy cattle, 50 miles away from home, the commute being so long I ended up investing in a caravan to stay in.
At the end of the six weeks on that dairy farm, at the age of 16, I was offered either cash payment or a fairly run-down tractor that had been sat in the yard for some years. The choice was obvious, and with the tractor under my belt I started farming (of sorts) on my own account, mowing paddocks for horse owners.
Only a few months later I diversified for the first time, reinvesting profits by buying 20 sheep to graze six acres of rented grassland. A year or so on I’m now up to 50 sheep and 70 acres of grass here, there and everywhere.
The council land is my next step on a very long ladder, allowing me to increase sheep numbers and start growing arable crops such as barley and potatoes. The idea of council farms are to encourage farmers with limited resources wanting to farm on their own.
I feel it is a common misconception all farmers are born into it, that there is no other way in. On the contrary, Norfolk County Council has over 16,000 acres of land rented to a huge number of people from a variety of backgrounds, some like me with no farming in their family.
Farms do not go to the highest bidder necessarily, rather they are judged on the business model being proposed, how beneficial it is to the local community, the local environment and how it will further the career of the tenant applying.
Many have used council farms to build large and successful businesses and I hope to follow in their footsteps and make the most of the amazing opportunity I have been given.
Hopefully I have dispelled a few farming myths already. I look forward to bringing some more good news when I am another month closer to taking the next step in my career.