Tuesday 30 May, 2023

This Month on the Family Farm: Quitting my job to work full time on the farm - scary but exciting times ahead

Beth Withers is a farmer and mum of three young boys. Here, she talks about bringing up her growing family at Lowlands, a beef and sheep farm, and the balance between motherhood and farming.

clock • 5 min read
This Month on the Family Farm: Quitting my job to work full time on the farm - scary but exciting times ahead

In January, I wrote about the year to come and some of the exciting things we were hoping would happen.

Well, it gives me great pleasure to sit here and write that I am officially jobless. That is correct, jobless.

Ok, I am not completely jobless, but after many years in the corporate world I have finished my notice period and I am able to look forward to a very big change in our life. I will no longer be working for a large corporation but working on the family farm and butchers shop.

So, what job have I given up? I have been asked this question a lot on social media so it feels only right that before I close this chapter I give it a final honour in my blog. As my social media account is focussed on farming, and talking about my family's life on the farm is at the forefront of what I do, people are always surprised when I say I do not actually work there and I have a full time nine to five job.

Like many, I went to sixth form straight from school, onto university and then into a job. I started out on a graduate scheme for a food manufacturer, and I relocated to London. From here I have kind of been stuck in the same area ever since. Once you have certain experience on your CV it is very hard to break out, and getting into anything new seems almost impossible. I have moved through three companies over the years, all doing pretty much the same thing; working in marketing to promote the brands or sales, and looking after customer accounts that purchase from the food manufacturer. I have learnt so much over my time in these roles and I have loved the challenge my job has bought me. I have been lucky enough to come across some truly amazing people and looking back there were certainly some really good times at work.

Before I met my husband, as strange as it may sound to those in the industry, I did not even know farming was a thing, let alone a viable career path. Yes, I would see the tractors at work, walk across the crop fields and, of course, eat lots of lovely produce but, I never knew what it actually all meant. It is since meeting my husband that I have been on this journey and wow, what a journey. I have fallen in love with many aspects of the farming industry, have a fascination with nature, and a passion for sharing the field to fork journey.

So why now?

As with everyone, over the years our circumstances have changed. I moved back from London to my home area where I met my partner, a farmer, and we got married and we now have three children under four. There have been many times when we discussed me making the big jump to joining the family farm but, with the corporate world, it was about

security - a simple nine to five work timing, the fall-back of other similar jobs, and that regular check like clockwork every month. With small children, the unpredictability, the juggle of family life and the extra pressure it would bring, we always felt it was just too much to give it up.

After my last maternity it was a serious consideration but, we just were not brave enough to take that step. I ended up going back to work to just see, and then, six months later, nothing has changed, and the wheel is going in full force again and I am stuck trying to get off.

At my current job they began to make some internal changes. I felt unhappy, and quite honestly, every time that Microsoft teams pinged, I would sit thinking there just has to be more?

This combination of elements all added together meant we have finally taken the leap.

I was so nervous handing in my notice, but when I left my laptop on that desk and walked away, I felt a giant cloud float away from around me.

So, what does the future hold?

This is a question I do not have an exact answer for at the moment. I will be working full time on the family farm and in the family butcher's shop. I have many ideas of things I would love to do - shout about the field to fork story, help to educate others on farming practices, use social media to show where our food comes from, and there are some basics such as the farm paperwork, lambing and day jobs that will form part of my role.

The most exciting thing is we have a blank canvas, a blank page to now populate as we like over the coming months and years. Although it really does scare me, I have butterflies in my tummy - what are we doing, and what have we got to lose?

With rising costs of living and three small children that need childcare, amongst everything else going on, I do not think there would ever have been a ‘right' time to take the step.

For us it felt like the timing just fell into place and we got to the point of knowing that it is now or never. If it does not work there are always other things to fall back on, but I am thrilled to be taking my journey onwards.

I hope I can inspire others who are in the same position as I have been - stuck on a wheel and unsure of how to get off, or even those who may have not even considered the industry as a career. I hope I can share the story of field to fork and help educate on the importance of buying British local produce. I hope everything falls into place and I can hear the sheep baa'ing instead of that Microsoft teams ping.

The next chapter of hope starts now.