If you want proof that you don’t have to be from a farming background to have a successful career in the industry, then look no further than the livestock unit manager at Easton & Otley College.
Aged just 23, Mark Robertson has already achieved a lot in a short period of time, taking on the responsibility of managing the livestock enterprises at the college’s Norfolk and Suffolk campuses.
Mark has had a desire to work in farming since the age of seven, after going out on a shoot with his great granddad. “I used to see the pigs in the field at the estate when we went shooting and I knew, from that point, I wanted to work outdoors.”
After completing his GCSEs, Mark decided to study for a national diploma in agriculture instead of taking A-levels.
“I also did some work experience, one day a week on a local farm when I was doing my GCSEs,” he says.
After leaving college in 2009, Mark joined Easton & Otley College as assistant herdsman and general farmworker.
Five years on, he is now managing the livestock enterprises, which consists of sheep, Highland cattle, pigs and poultry as well as all the additional tasks associated with managing a college farm.
His day-to-day job involves managing livestock on the Easton & Otley campuses and liaising with lecturers to organise hands-on assignments for the students.
“We get the students doing practical tasks such as worming sheep or dagging them. We can have 100 students working on the farm at any one time, so we need to make sure we have enough on the farm for them to do.”
Mark not only has to make sure the health and welfare of the animals is looked after, he also has to drive the farm forward.
He will be making decisions on everything to do with the animals, from the breeding programme and feeding regime to when to worm and house.
He also has a budget to manage, as well as three staff.
Mark says: “I get advice from people in the industry and ideas on how to drive the farm forward. I’m trying to perfect things and I do seek advice to make sure what I’m doing is right.”
However, he admits that making decisions can be difficult.
“The hard bit is when you are just not quite sure of something and you take the decision to just go for it.
“Sometimes when you make a decision some people don’t agree, but you just have to stick to it and listen to people.”
This role requires a lot of flexibility. One day Mark can be mucking out a shed or ploughing a field, the next he may assist students and ensure farm records and finance are all up to date.
He says: “I spend most of the time making sure everything is just looking good and that basic things aren’t missed.
“I have no social life at the moment, as the hours can be long, but you do get a sense of achievement by working hard to give the college a good image.”
Mark hopes to stay in education and help the younger generation to understand the different perspectives of farming. He is also completing a level four diploma in agribusiness management.