joshuafmetcalfe

Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Working weekend away.

In Agricultural, education, farming, getting started on November 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

It’s been a while since my last post and in many ways it’s a relief to write a new one. I think this is because I am only able to write one when I have been up to something (which isn’t often at the moment). Though I honestly feel I am doing well in my position; I even ‘butchered’ my first pheasant in the back yard of my Uni house last night (pictured), and I use to term ‘butchered’ very loosely. I’m thankful for the friends and contacts I have, I’d have gone insane by now without occasional access to hands on farming work.

I spent this weekend at my associate contemporary Sophie’s house (https://twitter.com/SheepishSophie) temporarily immersing myself in the rural lifestyle again. We spent Saturday fence posting and clearing undergrowth at the far end of one of her fields in order to ready it for her grazing rotation. I always underestimate the weight of the fence poster: This becomes an apparent mistake a few hours after you finish when everything between your fingertips and your shoulders hurts. I feel this eventual pain was potentially aggravated by me then using a chainsaw to clear fallen branches and brambles too.  However, though this might sound unpleasant I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to put it into practice when I get my own flock next year.

Of course I took advantage of Sophie’s passionate love of Sheep and asked as many questions as I could think of. We took a while to discuss potentially viable rare breeds for my own flock and I came to like the look of a handful of breeds; Whitefaced Woodlands, Castlemilk Moorits, Norfolk Horns and Jacobs (pictured, also courtesy of https://twitter.com/GBinNZ). Sophie has a flock of Moorits herself and she has nothing but good things to say about them. ‘Good feet, good size, good lambing, highly prized fleece, good meat’. As I am in the same position as Sophie I am sure that a rare breed is the way to go (for now) and I am very grateful for all her advice and knowledge.

I look forward to spring and lambing time. I want to get out and help as many people as possible; get as much experience as possible. There still seems to be no shortage of helpful people which I am thankful for.

On another note, today is the eve of the first episode of Farm apprentice. I urge as many people as possible to watch here; http://www.fwi.co.uk/farmersapprentice/ and be a part of this revolutionary project yourself. Please show your love and appreciation for agriculture and tune in!

Also please check out this blog, it’s called ‘The good life in practice’ for a reason; http://thegoodlifeinpractice.wordpress.com/ 

Ability is nothing without opportunity.

In Agricultural, education, family, farming, getting started on September 11, 2012 at 9:39 am

Already opportunity has come knocking in various forms. Within the space of three weeks I have progressed from having worryingly little to write about to almost having too much to write about. It seems contradictory to complain and I am quite excited, this provides me with the chance to talk to a lot of people who are involved in farming in different ways.

It seems so far that taking swallowing my pride and writing this blog was the best decision I could have made. I feel as if my mind eases every time I write an entry. It almost feels like a relief to commit my thoughts to writing, it goes beyond a sense of relief when I receive praise and help.

I continue to keep myself busy and keep up to date with the current affairs. The more news I read the further my slightly warped and perhaps misinterpreted picture of the sector develops. I feel I have quickly learnt that nothing stays still for long in this industry. One moment the Badger cull has the go ahead for a pilot cull, the next it’s postponed. I realize that budget cuts have hit the industry as hard as any other; DEFRA’s animal health budget is set to reduce from £244 million to £199 million in 3 years, and with bTB costing DEFRA £100 million per year it is certain to be subject t to imminent cuts. A cheaper solution to bTB must be found. Hopefully no more livelihoods will be totally ruined whilst we patiently wait for a definitive decision.  

All these problems; rising costs of fuel, a poor summer and various prolific diseases make me realize how versatile you have to be to make a success out of Farming.

I’ve been approached by The Salers Cattle Society to run their Twitter and Facebook pages, to cast ‘young eyes on the Market’. I say that I would happily do the job for free for the title of Editor of Digital Content. Whilst this title is admittedly nonsense I am excited at the prospect of writing more and talking with more Farmers. Especially consider that I want to keep Salers, so any information I can get my hands on would be very interesting. I will approach it with the same enthusiasm as I approach my blog with.

Cows and Calves

In these past few weeks I have liaised with several Farmers, some as young as me. I am hungry to know how they manage their Farm whilst they seem to be curious as to why anyone would ever choose to become a Farmer. I suppose my passion for it is due to the way I’ve been raised. As I’ve talked about before, I have experienced Farming throughout my entire life but I think considering the ‘bigger picture’ really swung it for me.

I was born into a generation of men and women who are groomed to be professionals. We are bred to sit at desks, to answer phones and meet deadlines and audits. We are brought on to fill a pair of office shoes and black trousers. Sired by a generation who experienced spiritual, political and social revolution in the 1960′s. I refuse to believe that my path in life is pre-determined by the family I have been born into. I don’t want to work in an office; I want to be a Farmer. As all my friends know I could happily shout it from the rooftops.

Please keep reading, and keep your eyes out for the soon-to-be Salers Cattle Society of the UK twitter page!

 

Free to those who can afford it, very expensive to those who can’t.

In Agricultural, education, farming, getting started on September 4, 2012 at 8:45 am

They say that if you want something badly enough, you’ll do anything you can to attain it. This of course puts emphasis and importance upon the concept of being very proactive. I nursed concerns initially that my hunger to learn would, for the most part fall upon unwilling or uninterested ears. Luckily for me it seems things couldn’t be any further from the truth.

  I have put many hours in on Twitter and Facebook this past week; badgering people to re-tweet me for promotional benefit. As a consequence of this, interest in my Blog seems to have increased as my blog views have risen dramatically. I have spoken to a great many people this week who have kindly promoted my Blog and I have nothing but gratitude to them. Some say to me that it is refreshing to talk to someone young who has a true passion for Farming. I consider this very encouraging and it once again becomes apparent that the people I meet will influence me beyond any previously imagined extent.

  As I walk from my village over to my girlfriends’ village I find myself studying the Farms that cover the valleys and hilltops like a giant patchwork duvet. I come to the terrible realisation that I have begun to take photos of Farms I pass on my travels. I fear that I now appear to others as a wide-eyed novice seeking to adopt forced pretence. I consciously counteract this by using my IPhone instead of a camera. Though I suppose to an honest degree I am a wide-eyed novice. There is no shame in that.

  I ask my great cousin if I can go to market with them at some point and they accept. I feel that experiences like this are important. Farming is a business (amongst many other things) and I must understand the inner workings of where most make their money. My anticipation grows to excitement when I realise that it will be a Wednesday afternoon and I will therefore have to miss work; what a shame.

  As the days pass I work and daydream. I think about what breed of sheep I will keep to start with. My first flock will have to be small, no more than twenty heads really, but I have to start somewhere. I like the sound of Hebredian ewes; I hear they practically look after themselves in winter. I will have to re-fence the vast majority of the plot but I do not doubt that it will be well worth the effort. I decide that I will cross my Hebredians with a Texel Ram to increase the size and weight of the lambs and to (hopefully) quicken the time taken for them to reach a substantial kill weight. Financing my flock will be a financial strain, but I know I will earn it back after 14 months. I look forward to the inevitable problems I will encounter, as usual I feel very excited. The list of possibilities is essentially endless.

 I hear from the Farmer just outside Leicester, he is willing to let me come and help one day a week. Again I am thankful for the good grace I receive from everybody involved and feel determined to reward their kind gesture with hard work and swift learning. I just hope I am able to maintain a healthy focus on my degree and not get too distracted from my final year of study.

Imparting of Wisdom

In Agricultural, education, family, farming, getting started on August 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm

People who know the industry say that we need an injection of passion into younger Farmers. Whilst I don’t feel I know enough to form an opinion on the matter, I do feel that I am passionate about Farming. I have said often that I seek to learn from everybody I meet and I have encountered no shortage of helpful people yet. I find myself drifting further and further into the form of a terrible stereotype; I have a genuine urge to get outside and do something useful; so I have done.  

I treat a big old wooden Barn door and cross frame with Creosote. It runs in streams of black tar tears down the slight channels and imperfections of each individual wooden plank in the door until, an hour later, a stinking black veil dresses the barn door (and much of the yard below it).  I take a step back and realise why Creosote has the harmful label on every bottle; I feel dizzy and slightly drunk. I pick up 50 new fence posts; the fences around the fields need patching. I pile them into the Barn and swing the dapper shiny Barn door shut. A gust of chemical air follows me.  I wander down the hill, covered in tar black specks and smudges and I watch the Hebridean Shearlings graze. I recall watching the news the day before and hearing; ‘summer is over’. Those Sheep will need their fleeces by winter, especially up here.

I get hold of some free information from EBLEX with regards to better returns programmes for your flock. I flick through and read in-depth and feel re-assured. If this information is free then I think I will struggle to grasp the hypothetical definition of value. Information from the horse’s mouth is equally as important. I visit my great cousin’s farm outside of Haworth and they kindly walk me around, introduce me to their Simmentals and Sheep and share pearls of wisdom. I thoroughly enjoy my afternoon and leave with a snap of Big Bad Bert (pictured below) and a picture of the view from their doorstep (pictured at the very bottom) . I leave feeling grateful, excited and of course, slightly jealous. I appreciate all the kind words, efforts and advice I receive. I feel it is the people I will meet who will be the biggest influence on how I end up Farming.

I receive further promising news, again through somebody I know (and in true fashion abides to the law of seven separations).  My girlfriends friend knows a Farmer whose plot is just outside of the city. Although I don’t want to get my hopes up, this is extremely encouraging. I feel assured too, that people are thinking of me and trying to help me. I feel gratitude alone would not be satisfactory repayment. I thank people for their kindness.

I hope to go to some auctions and markets before I go back to university. I hope I can find somebody who’ll let me go along. It’ll be very beneficial to get used to the way things are done.

That’s quite a view.

What’s the first step?

In Agricultural, College, education, Uncategorized on August 21, 2012 at 8:44 am

In the car on my way to work in the morning, I often find myself thinking “What’s the first step?” and inevitably the same question plays at me for the remainder of the day. But the question still begs an answer; what is the next step for me?

Having started reading Farmers Guardian regularly over a year ago, I have come to the realisation that the sector is as diverse as it is challenging. To me though, this is similar to presenting a 20 stone rugby player, with an insatiable appetite to a lavish wedding buffet. I feel the best next step for me is more education.

More education is a regrettable prospect when I already owe over ten thousand pounds to the government for the funding of my Literature degree. This is serious food for thought. But I know that Farming of any sort requires know-how that is not only vital, but so traditional and variable. Going into Farming with limited knowledge would be like taking a knife to a gun-fight. Not destined to end very well.

For two weeks I have trawled through many prospectuses from Agricultural colleges. Consequently, after much printing, clicking, post-code entering and reading I deduce that I really like the look of Askham Bryam College, Bishop Burton and The Royal Agricultural College.

I work my way through the prospectus, seeking a course that seems to provide the best kick-start I will need to enter the industry. I read of the modules, the facilities, the alumini and the career prospects and I also read the course fees.

Needless to say, they are not cheap; £10,000 is quite a lofty amount of money for somebody like me, and when you consider that the government don’t provide loans for these courses, you quickly start to worry a little. I feel this anxiety is useful. It would be wise to look up and government scheme’s involved with getting started.

I don’t find much upon my first attempts, perhaps I’m not looking in the right places.

I counter this concern with daydreams. Ideas of what I’m going to do enter my mind, and I toy with them all afternoon. Where I’ll be farming (In my mind, It’s got to be Yorkshire). What I’m going to call my first Bull. This all probably sounds terrible to a Farmer, but I have convinced myself that my idealistic thoughts are not detrimental to my desire to attain what they already have. I sincerely envy every son of every Farmer in Great Britain.

This jealousy or whatever you may call it is heavily counteracted by people I have met recently who already have what I want. I tend to worry that approaching someone in the industry for help might well just be considered an inconvenience. I know that if I was working 70 hour weeks, the last thing I want is to have some green farmer badgering me for advice and help.

The people I have met thus far have surprised me with their willingness and genuine interest in helping me. Be it advice or letting me come work at Agricultural shows in the cattle lines. It shames me, but I feel painfully green sometimes, and more than ever I have a hunger to get out onto someone’s farm and graft for them. I hold hope in the fact that this will spur me on to work hard when I need to most.

I am at a stage now where my English Literature degree is beginning to frustrate me. I feel it will offer limited benefit to getting where I want to be. I take consolation in the fact that I have another year to further explore prospects, come up with new and profitable business ideas and mostly dream of where I want to be in ten years.

I am helping out at the Yorkshire Show again next week, I am excited to get out of the office and into the mud and poo.