Let’s start with a question – if you were aged 18, 25, or even 40, considering a new career, would you choose farming? After seeking advice, gaining industry experience, or talking to other farmers, would it be an industry you’d choose?
Regrettably I feel for many the answer would be a swift “no”. Intimidated by the thought of long hours, hard manual work and facing daily weather struggles, it’s becoming a career many are quick to rule out. Before even experiencing the work or farm life, views are tainted, deterring people from jobs on farms.
Additionally, as farmers we are complaining of a labour shortage, searching endlessly for candidates who don’t seem to exist.
Filling jobs on farms is becoming increasingly more stressful, with the threat of a post-Brexit labour market making this worse.
With a lack of enthusiasm coming into the industry, and a lack of candidates for job roles on farms, what is going wrong?
For me, it’s simple. Whether it’s to our neighbouring farmer, an old school friend who now works in London, or a lady in the supermarket, we’ve not got anything good to say about our own industry.
It could be the weather, prices, eating trends or jobs, it’s all negative. If we can’t find anything good to say about farming, how will anyone else?
I therefore struggle to empathise with people complaining about labour shortages. How can you expect people to want to work in farming, when the attitude of the industry and the opinions we express are almost always negative?
I am optimistic there are things that can be done to combat this, but it will take a huge shift in the whole farming community.
Instead of constantly focusing on the drop in milk price, or the increase in rainfall, we should all be reminding ourselves about the reasons we chose farming, and communicating them.
To make farming more attractive from the outside, we need to remember what we love about it on the inside – that feeling when you’re watching the sunrise, or seeing the cows run out to grass for the first time in spring.
Next time someone asks “what do you do” in the supermarket, would it be that hard to answer proudly that you work in farming? That very person you meet in the supermarket aisle could easily be your next employee.
Next time you talk about how hard it is to find staff on farm, or how Brexit labour shortages are affecting the agricultural industry, it’s time to consider how we can help ourselves.
Amy Eggleston is a fifth-generation dairy farmer, working on her family farm in Leicestershire. The 24-year-old is a member of Melton Mowbray YFC and is a former Tesco Future Farmer Foundation delegate. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.