Updated: Sep 26, 2020
My opinion may be one of bias, but growing up on a farm is hands down the best a kid can ask for. There’s nothing quite like it. I could not have had a better childhood and I feel so lucky to have had that start in life.
I am going to write about farm life in two parts (or maybe more). I could talk about it forever, so I thought I best split it up.
Growing up on a farm, there’s always so much to do, and so much space to do it in. There was endless fun to be had at home - from looking after and playing with the lambs and dogs, to playing in the fields, making dens, catching spiders and worms, to climbing on bales and picking plums and apples. My sisters and I were lucky enough to have horses too, which not only meant long hacks with friends and the chance to learn a new skill, it also taught us the importance of responsibility. Of course, it’s not all fun and games; there’s a lot of work to do on a farm, and sometimes helping with the sheep and cattle jobs could be a chore, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
So many memories, so many life lessons, so much to be thankful for. Without a doubt, my experiences as a farmer’s daughter have made me who I am today.
“Maturity starts with the willingness to give oneself” – Elisabeth Elliot.
I could never understand when friends used to say they were bored at home – I only found out what that was really like when living in Middlesbrough at Uni. I even used to think we were lucky compared to people who lived in the village, who had no fields, sheds, barns and animals to keep them occupied. I guess I was oblivious to life in towns and cities – it is honestly a completely different experience. Until I went to Uni, I had no idea how little so many people actually know about farming and where their food comes from! The lack of understanding is astounding to me!
Since discovering this, I have been working on a way to get a campaign going for agriculture to be re-introduced into the school curriculum. (It’s on my to-do list, but I’ll just let COVID-19 cool down a bit first; I think the government are a little too overwhelmed at this moment in time!)
To live and work on a farm, you must be resilient. I have not always been strong enough or smart enough to do everything the first time, but not giving up is the trick. My Dad, Mum, Sisters and Dan always make things look easy. Improvising and adapting to my capabilities and strengths is a constant battle, but I am up for the challenge and always will be.
I grew up in a hamlet (which is smaller than a village) called Hartlington, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Wharfe House Farm has been in my family for four generations. It used to be a dairy farm, up until the Foot and Mouth epidemic in 2001, which saw all of our cows and the majority of our sheep culled. This heartbreak spelt the end for dairy at Wharfe House, as my family decided to diversify in other ways. I was only 3 or 4 at the time, so barely remember any of the dairy cows, but I love looking through old photos and hearing everyone’s stories.
We restocked the sheep (running a smaller flock than before F&M), until 9 years ago when we invested in some British Beef Shorthorns too. We have had the pleasure of taking some of these lovely cows and bulls to agricultural shows around Yorkshire, and I have loved every second of it. We got 23 to start with, and now have a herd of about 60, plus this year's calves. This makes spring even more exciting with lambing time and calving too! Much like wool wrapping during summer shearing, caring for pet lambs and bedding up always seemed to be the ‘kid’s job’ when we were younger, and I continued to take on these tasks right up until leaving home. I missed this time so much when I was at Uni.
My boyfriend, Dan had worked on his Grandad’s and Mum’s dairy farm since he left school, which meant I finally got to work with dairy cows! As much as I love lambing time, I have to say cows are my fave! Their characters just put a smile on your face instantly. Here at Dan’s, we’re milking about 80 cows at the moment – Friesian and Holstein and a couple of MRI’s too. We also have about 300 sheep and we’ve just started a pedigree Beltex flock a couple of years ago (you should check us out on Instagram and Facebook - @fewston_beltex). And a few hens!
The sense of pride and rewarding feeling that comes from looking after and rearing animals is just fabulous. It’s such a skill – one which takes patience, time, care and attention to detail - so why do farmers always get a bad name? During this coronavirus pandemic, farmers across the nation haven’t stopped. We continue to feed the people of this nation, meeting increasing demand and continuing to produce quality food, all whilst keeping up with the highest welfare standards in the world. So please, when doing your shopping, take a moment to check the label and buy British. Do your bit to support families like mine and BACK BRITISH FARMING. Also … head to this address now to sign the petition for “the Government to ensure that all food eaten in the UK – whether in our homes, schools, hospitals, restaurants or from shops – is produced in a way that matches the high standards of production expected of UK farmers” https://www.campaigns.nfuonline.com/page/56262/petition/1?locale=en-GB
So, how does this relate to Rheumatoid Arthritis? Actually… in more ways than you might think! I even have a cow who has arthritic knees! I named her Bella as a calf and the way she carries on gives me the strength to do the same.
I will dive into this a little more in Part 2, but here’s a little taster…
Albeit more likely Osteoarthritis, many farmers struggle with Arthritis too; often due to a life of hard, manual labour and strains on the body. I feel that the aches and pains I get are so similar to that of probably all farmers. So, if I can’t even manage to get out of bed one day, how does a person running a farm manage?
The loneliness and sense of isolation we’re all experiencing in these current times is something many farmers live with most of the year. Being in such rural locations, sometimes your nearest neighbour is miles away. Of course, this is particularly hard for those farming alone. It’s not a simple case of taking a break, going on holiday willy-nilly or turning a night out into a weekender; when you’re farming, you always have to be there – lives depend on it. There’s always work to be done and there’s no such thing as a day off. Many farmers enjoy working alone, it’s true, but no matter who you are, loneliness can have a massive impact on your health, both physically and mentally. Mental health is a big problem in the farming community, and it’s one that isn’t spoken about enough. There are more charities and helplines popping up now, which is great, but it’s definitely something I want to become more involved in. (Another campaign idea for the future – work alongside https://www.yellowwellies.org/mind-your-head/).
If you know any farmer, you’ll know this to be true – As soon as they sit down, they’re sure to fall asleep! Chronic fatigue = every farmer! Often, after another hard days work, the body seizes up and you’re stiff as a board when you wake. I don’t even remember the last time I was at my Mum and Dad’s and Dad didn’t fall asleep at least once; whether he’d gone for “five minutes in his chair” or conked out on his keyboard in the middle of paperwork!
A day on the farm is so much harder than any workout, it has to be said. So, to all the farmers who do their days work and then exercise afterwards, or have the energy to do anything afterwards, I can only applaud you. I run out of energy after just helping for a few hours!
In fact - whilst we’re applauding, let’s give a massive hand to all our farmers for feeding the nation all day every day!
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this post and will come back for the next one and get another little taste of life on a UK farm!
[Follow me for all things farming on my insta @alidaggett - constant updates of adorable animal pics 😍]