Farming is not all mud, anti-social hours and grinding hard work.
Defying the gloom-mongers is a young Horam farmer whose own experience proves it’s a terrific career option for youngsters.
Dairy farmer Joe Delves from Burnt House Farm said: “I want to dispel the image lots of people have of farming. If you like the open air, being your own boss, spending time with your family, working with animals and deciding your own future, instead of having it decided for you, then consider farming as a career.”
Joe, 32 is married with two small children. He took over the family sheep farm in 2005, improved and updated it, switching to cattle. “Dad was keen for me to succeed so he left me to it.”
He now has 220 Friesian/Norwegian cows and 160 heifers reared outdoors in summer on 180 hectares, the method most preferred by UK dairy customers. He grows his winter feed himself.
He won a prestigious Nuffield scholarship and has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Australia and New Zealand. Farming there is on a much larger scale and Joe was impressed by a typically New World ‘can do’ approach, where youngsters enter farming and set themselves targets such as ‘I’ll be a millionnaire by the time I’m 40!’
He’s now off to the United States to check the flipside of the dairy industry – an indoor ‘containment’ unit where 6,000 cows are kept on concrete but owners have entered into a John Lewis-style equity partnership with workers. “I’ll be interested to see how it all functions. Just because we are different doesn’t mean they are wrong.”
Joe’s main aim is to encourage young people in the UK to consider farming as a career. “They fear there is no obvious career ladder but I believe you make your own ladder. There are many 23-25 year olds renting land, milking their own cows. There are two huge benefits; farming creates wealth – in what other industry does your stock produce more of itself? And skills are globally transferable. Learn to farm here and you can work anywhere in the world. ”
Joe approves of the heavily regulated UK dairy industry where animal welfare standards are the highest in the world. He must meet five welfare standards.
“Welfare is our priority. If you want a job with flexible timings, outdoors and to gain skills, consider farming!”