Farmer James Read at his laptop in his kitchenJames Read © Tim Scrivener

As farmers, we are sometimes guilty of neglecting or taking for granted one of the most fundamental things in life – our family. 

Most of us have a massive workload, that’s the nature of the job, but we must always remember that our family is the reason we work. 

My father, as far back as I can remember, never spent any quality time with me or my siblings. 

He would either be at work or down at the local, washing down the dust. I can’t remember ever having a day out as a family. 

This situation resulted in my mum being very lonely.

And as she received very little support with the three of us when we were young, unsurprisingly the marriage ended in divorce when I was seven. 

I do not blame my father for having to work so hard and it was the culture in that era to go straight down to the pub after work to discuss the day’s work with your fellow farmers. 

I don’t think this lack of family life has affected me as a person – if anything it has probably made me a little more independent.

Work-life balance

When my son Tom was born I started wandering down the same track.

For example, a couple of years ago I was flat out with my contracting business, with no time for anything else, so I missed Tom’s first steps.

That day made me realise there has to be a balance between work and family. 

Children grow up so fast, it’s easy to miss those milestones.

You only get one chance to see your kids grow up.

It is not worth staying on the tractor and ploughing those extra 10 acres at night, sacrificing the bedtime stories.

Life is quieter for me now and thankfully I’m able to spend more time with my son and my wife, Sally.

As a result, I have be involved with the traumatic but sometimes amusing task of potty training.

Tom is showing farmers’ traits in this department, as he has a habit of jumping off his pedal tractor, by-passing the potty, dropping his trousers and tipping his load right next to his tractor.

This reminds me of my most embarrassing moment, being caught short at 6.30am, and attending the call of nature, not realising I was in view of the local footpath.

About 25 early-morning ramblers appeared out of the middle of nowhere and saw me squatting next to the tractor. 

See also: In praise of the mixed farm

Since my workload has decreased, I have had time to go to a few agricultural shows.

Not only are they a great shop window for farming, they also bring families together.

They are a fantastic day out for everybody, from toddlers to grandparents.

One of the rare memories I have of my family being together was at the local Lincolnshire Show.

I remember my dad putting me on every tractor I pointed to and this year, 40 years on, I was doing the same with Tom.

Family atmosphere

Over the past two years we have gone further afield and visited the Great Yorkshire Show, which has a great family atmosphere.

It is more livestock-focused than the Lincolnshire Show and the next generation of young farmers were busy showing their animals or entering shearing competitions, cheered on by their nearest and dearest.

It was actually at last year’s Great Yorkshire Show that another of my most embarrassing moments occurred.

The three of us arrived nice and early at 7am to avoid the rush, but we made a big mistake by not going around the trade stands straight away. Instead we decided to do our shopping at about 11am.

Of course, by this time the isles were heaving with people.

As I pushed Tom in his pushchair through the mayhem, I stopped and glanced at a picture of a beautiful shire horse on one of the stands.

When I turned round, Sally was nowhere to be seen. Tom started to exercise his vocal chords, screaming for “Mummy”. 

After half an hour I was really starting to panic and for the first time in my life, was pleased to see a police woman. After checking toilets and other public areas, she advised me that we would have to put an announcement out on the main loud speaker.

I thought to myself: Great, just as I was starting to become known for my Farmers Weekly column and doing well in my sheepdog trialling, I’d get this sort of exposure.

Thankfully, on our way we passed the Joules marquee and there was Sally, looking quite relaxed while trying on a dress.

It’s great to see shows regaining their popularity over the past few years, as they give the general public a valuable insight into what we are doing – whether it be showing stock or the latest advances in agriculture. We cannot afford to lose any more big shows, such as the Royal Show. 

So if you fancy a day out with the family, park the tractor up, brush yourself down and bundle the kids into the car.

Take a tip from me, however. Once you get there, if they offer you a tag for the kids, you might be better to stick it on your other half.