Boots and Heels Blog: Visiting the Chief Shepherdess

Being the Boots part of the duo, living and working on my family farm, it’s always interesting to be able to see how other farmers are doing things.

It might be a completely different sector, or the same sector with different considerations to those at home. That was the case when we visited Zoe aka the Chief Shepherdess and Kriss aka the Super Serious Farmer at lambing time.

About the author

Boots and Heels: Becca
I’m a fifth-generation farmer from North Yorkshire, so I am the “boots” in Boots and Heels. I work full time on my family farm and truly believe that everyone, whether they are from an agricultural background or not, should have the chance to get involved in such a fantastic sector that has so much to offer.  The idea for Boots and Heels stemmed from frequent conversations with Lizzie about how the industry is perceived by those outside of agriculture. 
Read more articles by Boots and Heels: Becca

Lizzie and I were lucky enough to initially speak to Zoe back in series one, when Boots and Heels was solely a podcast.

See also: #FeedTheNation: Kent couple launch direct meat sales venture

We came across her page on social media and knew that she was exactly the sort of advocate that the farming industry needed.

From being a hairdresser in London to making farming her job, Zoe’s story inspired us so much that we kept in touch with the hope of being able to visit when Covid-19 restrictions eased.

Zoe and Kriss are first-generation farmers and the challenges they have faced in setting up their farming enterprise are numerous.

Even when you are lucky enough to have found some land to rent, or even more unlikely, to buy… how do you stock it?

What can you have on the farm with limited to no indoor space? How do you manage the risk when there is little certainty when it comes to how long you will hold rented land for? How do you invest when income and margins are far from guaranteed?  

I found it really interesting to hear how Zoe and Kriss bought a lot of older hill breed ewes, which knew the job and were more than capable of thriving and producing lambs on lower-lying land with more forgivable conditions.

Not only was this a more financially viable way of building their flock, it also meant the chances of the ewes needing assistance at lambing time was less likely.

One thing that really stood out for me, as with all the farmers we visit, is a resolute commitment to animal welfare. We saw the amazing sight of a sheep that had suddenly succumbed to a nutrient deficiency and gone off her legs be given the appropriate treatment by Zoe and Kriss and get back on her feet within the hour. You can watch the transformation here:

I think after watching this video, you’ll agree with us when we say farming often draws on knowledge from many job roles and, in this case, a vet being top of that list.

Zoe and Kriss also have a combined social media following of about 50,000 on Instagram – no mean feat.

However, the way they are using their platform as a way to spread a powerful but honest message about the realities of farming and food production is pretty inspiring. In a world where we often only see the highlight reels of people’s lives, to be taken along with the lows as well as the highs is both refreshing and reassuring.