“When it’s your sheep – it’s your responsibility and your money, it’s a real eye opener and the support I received made a huge difference. It’s been supportive, informative and inspiring too”
An overview from the Farmer Network:
Jodie joined the programme in 2014. She loves sheep and has 25 acres of land she rents from her Grandma and Mum, with other plots of land elsewhere. It’s very much how young people who are not born onto a farm start out. They are always vulnerable when you need to rent small patches of land, but it’s the only way they can start.
Here’s what Jodie had to say:
In the beginning: Jodie Swan has always wanted her own flock of sheep. Now she balances managing and gradually building up her own flock, alongside self-employed work on local farms. She found out about the programme from an article in the Westmorland Gazette.
How the programme helped:
"My dream has become a reality.”
Explore enterprise course – the business basics: The introduction to basic business is essential – I didn’t realise how much. You can meet other people wanting to do a similar thing and it really opened my eyes to the accounting process. I also gained confidence in doing the paperwork myself.
Business Advisors: I found their support very good – I gained a lot of knowledge and it helped me in planning for a loan. The one to one business advice gave me confidence to explore ideas and helped me have the confidence to take my ideas forward. You can explore different ideas, go with them or rule them out. My advisor helped me put together a business plan that showed growth and the financials I needed to go for a loan.
The Training Grant: Being able to tap into the grant for training was great. It enabled me to do a lot of the management of my sheep on my own. I took the trailer test, went on a clipping course and got some basic sheep dog training too. It’s a good start when you don’t have to rely on other people – you feel more independent.
The mentoring: Professional support makes a real difference. It does take guts and it can be hard going, so having someone that you can pick up the phone to is a great benefit of the programme. Between the Business Advisor, the Mentor, the Network and others on the course, I’ve built up a really useful list of contacts – a valuable little black book.
The Loan: I didn’t want to over stretch myself so took out the loan to buy 20 sheep. I’ve finished paying that all back which is a good feeling. I was nervous at the interview, but again, this is where the business advice at the start made a difference.
When you’re not from a farm it’s not easy to gather the land and livestock together. I’ve now got land in three different places and have built up my flock of Cheviot ewes and tups slowly.
Owning Jim my own sheepdog, and working him, gives me a great sense of fulfilment. Having a dog so loyal and intelligent allows me to gather the sheep single handed.
The loan gave me a good start- but I am still working on other farms too so whilst I love having my own flock I’ve been careful not to take on too much. I need to be able to juggle it all.
Things have gone quite well, and I paid the loan off after 3 years which gives me a sense of achievement and I’m still building up the quality of my stock as I go. I’m proud to have stock which have placed in local shows – including a Reserve Champion.
It’s amazing how much more confidence I have now, and the programme played a big part in that. It’s been very motivating to have a network I can lean on and I’d say to anyone with ambition to develop a business in agriculture to find out about the programme – you’ve noting to lose and a lot to gain.
“Don’t be afraid to explore different ideas or ways of reaching your goal and do lean on the professionals who are there to help."
Overcoming obstacles: I didn’t appreciate how much business knowledge you need – and it is very daunting to have the responsibility on your own head The first years of business can be tricky – especially when you haven’t done it before. Thankfully the programme had fantastic support which made it less daunting.
What advice would we give to new entrants?
- Just go for it
- You don’t have to be from a farming family to give it a go
- Don’t be afraid to explore different ideas and make the most of the support on offer
- You have ongoing support
- Know it’s hard work and when it’s all your responsibility it’s tough – but rewarding