London roots to mucky boots – how I became a farmer

By Emma Smith
25th June 2020

Want to know a secret? I am not from a farming family or background. Being born into a London based family never deterred me from considering a career ‘on the land’. And it shouldn’t stop you either. Here’s my story of how it happened.

Fortunately for me when I was seven my family moved from London down to Devon and so at the age of thirteen, I started a voluntary job at the local farm park.

It didn’t take me long to realise that a job within the agricultural industry was my dream. Spending every weekend there and dealing with sheep on a regular basis, not only earnt me some extra pocket money but also kick started an addiction to farming.

Going to agricultural college

Instead of staying on to do A levels I attended an agricultural college and studied animal care, agriculture and countryside management. Fully immersing myself in all things ‘Ag’, I soon became equipped with new skills that I’d never known existed.

Fencing, muck spreading, tagging calves and basic record keeping were some of the things I encountered at my time in college. And the great thing was that being the outsider didn’t matter. I was welcomed with open arms – amidst all the usual banter of course!

After finishing college, equipped with my newfound knowledge, I travelled around Ireland having a break from studying. This was an education in itself and I was lucky enough to visit some lovely farms and see some amazing cattle.

Getting my first job in farming

On my return I landed my first proper job – assistant herds person. This meant I had to milk twice a day, feed calves and help with the bedding up of loose housing. It was a great starter job and one I will never forget.

As the years passed, I gained experience on many different enterprises, ranging from large dairy herds, to small beef herds and various night lambing shifts.

All the while I was clocking up my hours, a bit like a working tractor. But I wanted to learn more and in my late twenties I embarked on an agricultural degree. This was to put my practical experiences into the theory.

At times this was challenging but extremely rewarding, especially when coming out the other side. Whilst studying I also took a part time course in teaching and soon embarked on my first teaching position.

Then I started teaching farming

This was my way for thanking the industry that had welcomed me with open arms. And what a blast! I wanted to share all my expertise and knowledge to young people who were once like I was. The students I taught and the fun we had was great and confirmed my belief I had made the right choice all those years ago.

Then I got my first farm!

Since then I have worked at other colleges, secured a tenancy farm and currently farm pedigree Herefords with a livery business for show and sale cattle.

We also have a foot trimming business serving both dairy and beef herds. Presently my favourite job is being the youth coordinator for The Hereford Cattle Society and most recently I have just returned from New Zealand spreading the word about our UK farming industry.

I have also been privileged enough to be selected as an Emerging Leader to attend the Oxford Farming Conference having an amazing time and creating some perfect opportunities – there are lots out there.

So, my message is this…

There are many amazing roles within farming to consider whether that be dairy worker, shepherd, lecturer or agronomist. The thing is to keep going, be ambitious and stay focused.

Doors may shut and things go wrong, but they will in any job. However, the people in this industry are immensely helpful and as we all share the same passion don’t be shy in attending shows, getting work experience and fully embrace this lifestyle that we all know and love!

Go get that job 😊

About Emma

Emma Smith runs a cattle foot trimming service and is a pedigree Hereford cattle breeder. She is also youth coordinator for the Hereford Cattle Society, and emerging leader of Oxford Farming Conference 2020. She has an MA in children’s publishing and is an ‘established cow enthusiast’.