I would be the first to admit that tI have had a very fortunate path into farming.
Firstly, I was born and brought up on a farm. Secondly, of my parents’ three children, I was the one who decided to go into farming. Finally and perhaps most important of all, my father never put any pressure on me to join the family business. If I was to join him, it was because I wanted to, because I saw it as an opportunity, not because it was my duty.
I was a pretty rubbish farmer’s son. As a young boy, rugby and cricket were always more interesting to me than sticking on a pair of wellies and helping my father out on the farm (unless there was money to earn).
This may have been because at school, I was one of only a handful of children whose parents had any involvement with agriculture. While this didn’t put me off farming, it meant that it largely passed me by during term time. And I wouldn’t change that. Because the majority of my friends (many of whom are from my school days) work outside of farming, it has heavily influenced my interest in changing the way others view farming, especially children. As far back as I can remember, I have been astounded by how little my friends knew about where their food came from, but how interested they are to find out more.
It was only when I went to ag college that I had friends who knew one end of a pig from the other.
In 1988, towards the end of my first term at college, my father and I drove to Cambridge to listen to the great agricultural economist Michael Murphy deliver his outlook for UK farming. It was bleak, very bleak indeed. And in the course of the car journey home I decided that my farming career was on hold for the foreseeable future.
I spent six years working in an office, first trading and then broking commodities. I loved it – it was very different from working on the family farm, but it still held the draw of being linked with farming. I would highly recommend a spell in an affiliated industry. And if I had my time again, I wish that I had stuck with it a little longer. When I reflect on my transition from school, to college to starting work, other than working in the City for a few years more, I wouldn’t change a great deal. I say that, with the benefit of hindsight, we should have bought every acre we could afford when it was £1,200/acre in the mid-90s, but the opportunities and prospects for farming, no matter which way you looked at them, were pretty dour back then. Hence it was of little surprise that school career advisers never recommended agriculture as a career option.
The opportunities our industry now offers are boundless. No longer is it seen as a destination exclusively for those already exposed to farming. That is why I am so excited about the Bright Crop careers initiative. It is not only a necessity, but also very healthy for our industry to be attracting new recruits from far and wide.
I don’t regret growing up with friends from outside of farming, but if I had my time again I would be telling them that a career in farming and food supply was well worth considering. And I am convinced that every one of them would agree.
Ian Pigott farms 700ha in Hertfordshire. The farm is a LEAF demonstration unit. Ian is also the founder of Open Farm Sunday.
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