10 things I learnt in my first 6 months farming

By Nicola Hooper
23rd June 2019

I quit my job last year and post-honeymoon, started my new career alongside my husband and his parents – in farming. And wow, what a six months it has been.

It’s been a complete emotional rollercoaster.

I’m not going to lie, at times there have been tears and self-doubt. The odd ‘what am I doing?’ moments – usually when I’m tired, cold, wet, covered in shit and frustrated by my lack of ability, or knowledge to do something.

But I stuck with it through the hardest time of all – winter! And am pleased to say that I’m finally feeling like I’m settling in to it and things are falling in to place.

“Glorious and horrendous”

Farming is like nothing I’ve ever known or experienced before and it can be glorious and horrendous all at the same time.

Don’t get me wrong, the good totally outweighs the bad. But as a complete novice who was used to being pretty competent and confident in her last line of work, to start off in something new that was so far removed from what I knew and with soooooo much to learn, has been tough.

It’s been hard to be the trainee again and be told what to do – quite often by my husband. And with no structured, formal training, or feedback, which you receive in the corporate world, I’ve had to just take each day as it comes.

I’ve had to remind myself that the probation period of any job is difficult to navigate. You take on so much new information every day and try put it in to practice and settle in to a new cultural working environment all at the same time.

It’s no different on the farm, and whilst at times I’ve not felt like I’ve been good enough to be a farmer, I’ve had to have a stern word with myself to take the pressure off and relax.

With summer upon us, my confidence and ability slowly building, and my new sidekick ‘Cookie’ by my side, I’m excited to see what the next six months will bring. Until then I wanted to share a few key takeaways with you, from my first 6 months of farming

1. Leave your ego at the farm gate

There’s no place for it here – on a farm everyone has to be pulling in the same direction and mucking in together for it to be successful

2. Always shut said gate

…or any other gate for that matter, or else your livestock are sure to go for a wander!

3. Observe, observe, observe

If you want to be a good farmer, you have to be continually taking in your surroundings and spending timing with your livestock watching and noticing. It’s a new skill for me which I’m still working hard on.

4. Have a plan but stay flexible

Have a plan or intent of what you want to achieve that that day/week/ month, but be flexible and adapt to what’s going on around you. I used to be the master planner both in my professional and personal life, but I’ve had to learn to go with the flow more.

5. Good outdoor gear is essential to happiness

Invest in waterproofs, gloves, base layers, wellies – they’ll make the difference to your happiness when you’re out braving the elements.

6. Don’t cut corners

Always consider the impact of your actions as they’re usually very tangible, what you do now perhaps to save time may end up creating more work for you a couple of months later so always think ahead.

7. Create a farming network

Find good support networks, and go out and visit other farms and talk to other people in your industry – soaking up as much information as you can. Social media is great for this and has been invaluable to me on my journey.

8. You can’t control everything

Recognise and accept that not everything is within your control. You can only control the controllable and do your best in any given situation. This is a really important one, as there are so many variables in farming and only a few of them are actually ones you can do anything about.

9. Have breaks and leave the farm

Make the most of any down time and get off farm. Take time for yourself and recharge when you can, without feeling guilty. No one wants to reach burn out, and the way I see it you’re better at work if you’re on you A-game, and the farm and livestock will do better for it.

10. Enjoy every minute and don’t take yourself to seriously

I have definitely been guilty of not doing this. But I’m learning to focus on the positives, be grateful for the opportunity to farm – lots of people would love to do it and don’t have the option to – and have a laugh and smile even through the harder times.

As ever, thanks for reading!