Jess Jeans© Sean Hernon

When William and I first decided to try to secure a farm tenancy the one thing I remember people telling us was, “You’ll be very lucky to get one” and “Are you sure? It’s going to be bloody hard work”.

We believed them, we knew it was going to be hard, that the odds were stacked against us and that sometimes it would seem a near impossible dream.

We ploughed on regardless, ignoring the naysayers and believing that we could achieve our goal if only we worked hard enough.

I remember getting the call from the land agent telling us that we were being offered the farm – it was a moment of complete elation and disbelief.

We had done it, against all the odds, we had managed to convince the panel we were the right candidates.

We called all our friends and family, everyone was thrilled for us, it was so exciting.

See also: Opinion: My EU views have taken my media career international

We had unlocked the door to a future as proper farmers, running our own business, under our own terms, no boss, no older generation partners.

‘On our own’

We were off on our own, with no track record, not much experience, just our degrees, our work ethic and a motley herd of suckler cows.

It is easy to say something is going to be hard.

It is easy to reply  you know it will be, with a smile and shrug of the shoulders. The reality of what “hard” actually feels like is very different.

It is forking tonnes of bought-in silage off the back of a trailer into the feeders in the driving rain because you couldn’t make enough of your own and the loader is broken and you cant afford to fix it until you pass a TB test to sell some stores.

It is looking in the empty kitchen cupboards wondering what is more important – to buy food for the house or diesel for the tractor.

“Hard” is seeing your old school mates posting pictures of their latest reunion in the sun while you can’t remember the last day you had out of your wellies or got to bed before midnight.

‘Proper jobs’

Sometimes we have wondered if we wouldn’t have been better off getting “proper jobs” after university, with a 40-hour week, paid holiday and a pension scheme instead of all the stress, risk and responsibility that comes from running a farm on your own.

I was totally shocked when I woke to the news from the radio alarm that the UK had voted to leave.

I spent the day in a bit of a haze, glued to the radio and my phone, following the news intently.

My first reaction was along the lines of “How the hell did that happen?”.

I fully expected the Remain campaign to edge a 5-10% victory.

I didn’t even bother to get up early to hear the news as it broke.

It took me few minutes to realise what had happened. I was all set to quip about how, even though we hadn’t won, I had retained my right to moan about the EU ad infinitum.

The media coverage in the wake of the result has been alarmist to say the least and I’m saddened by the backlash from the Remain campaigners. I thought we Brits were better than that.

‘No easy road’

I knew, when I posted my ballot, the choice I was making was not going to lead me down the easy road.

I knew it would mean years of volatility, years of struggle.

I knew that I was risking the financial stability provided by the CAP budget, which is so crucial to our bottom line.

‘Right decision’

Yet, just like when I was writing tender applications rather than sending out CVs for a graduate job, I knew that I was making the right decision.

I believe I made the right decision for my family, my business and my country.

I know what years of hardship feel like but also know with independence comes resilience. We have steered through the hard times getting our farm established. We have made so many mistakes and learned from each and every one.

Every year it gets a little easier – we do a little better and that is the future that we are carving out for ourselves. I believe that the UK can do the same in the wake of the Brexit.

I don’t know what the next few years will hold for the negotiations of our withdrawal from the EU but I do know it is going to be “hard”.

I know sometimes it will seem we may have made a bad decision, had we voted the other way, our lives would be easier and our economy more stable.

Despite this, I’m sure we will emerge from Brexit a stronger, more resilient nation. As farmers, it is now, for the first time in a very long time, our chance to stand up and be heard in Whitehall and in the kitchens across the UK.

We need to make Britain understand how important our domestic food production industry is and make sure that agriculture gets the best deal from the negotiations.

It was never going to be easy and the hardest times are yet to come.

We voted individually, bit it is now time to work together to mould the future outside of the EU.


Jess Jeans and her husband Will run 75 suckler cows on an 80ha National Trust farm on the Devon/Cornwall border. They have two children, Teddy and Lydia. Jess has a degree in rural business management and enjoys horse riding in her spare time