The youthful sheep farmer bridging the urban-rural gap

Metropolis-born Gareth Staples-Jones is doubtless one of many NFU’s new Pupil and Younger Farmer Ambassadors, and he is determined to make his mark in agriculture.

Having been launched up in a terraced house in Manchester, nonetheless now working a sheep enterprise, Gareth reckons he’s obtained “a foot in each camps” in relation to the town-country divide.

This was part of the rationale the 24-year-old was wanting to develop to be an Ambassador – he wishes to do his bit to bridge the urban-rural gap.

See moreover: Farmers Weekly Awards 2021 – Younger Farmer of the Yr

“I’ve at all times been within the outdoor, however by no means thought of a profession in agriculture,” says the historic previous graduate, who labored for a logistics agency after leaving the College of Salford.

“I grew up surrounded by metropolis individuals who noticed beef and lamb on the cabinets, however by no means thought of the way it obtained there. I didn’t even know agricultural faculties existed.”

Through the primary lockdown, Gareth and his girlfriend, Grace Collinson – whose mom and father had been farmers sooner than they retired – hatched a plan to get a few sheep.

“As a teenager, there aren’t that many alternate options to have your particular person enterprise.

“We additionally wished one we may run collectively, and one which concerned being outdoors and ideally working with animals. Farming mixed all of it,” he says.

Gareth Staples-Jones and Grace Collinson

Gareth Staples-Jones with girlfriend Grace Collinson © Gareth Staples Jones

Rented land

“We spent six months making an attempt all over the place and wherever for a scrap of land.

“Ultimately, we realised we wouldn’t be able to uncover any, so we rented the 42 acres that Grace’s mom and father saved as soon as they obtained out of farming.

“The sad actuality is that, if it hadn’t been for them giving us this opportunity, we merely wouldn’t have been ready to get a foot on the ladder.

“It does sometimes actually really feel as if the entire taking part in playing cards are stacked in direction of you. We will’t, for example, even apply for many of the grants.

“You must purchase the package first to get the grant, and we merely can’t increase the capital.”

The couple’s fledgling sheep enterprise has expanded and, subsequent yr, they’ll have 60 ewes, working alongside a lamb-box scheme.

Gareth moreover works full-time for NFU Mutual, in tandem with roles as an space councillor and with the Military Reserves. In the meantime, Grace works full time at an animal sanctuary.

“Sadly, our farming isn’t at a scale to be our sole jobs but, however that’s our aspiration,” he says.

His army endeavours have highlighted the ultimate lack of information in regards to the countryside.

“Once I talk about what I do to quite a lot of the lads, it’s as crazy to them as any particular person going to the moon! They’ll’t get their heads spherical it.

“However there are individuals in rural areas who know nothing about metropolis life and don’t perceive the practicalities and realities of jobs there. It’s vital that info flows each methods.”

Gareth says the model new expertise in agriculture has a key place to play talking important messages.

“Greater than ever, farmers today needs to be further clear about what they do with their land and animals.

“It’s not a case of justifying your existence, however explaining the details, as a result of the general public are questioning all features of the availability chain.”

Transferable experience

As a former Navy reservist – and now holding an identical place with the Military – he’s noticed an overlap of the talents of those throughout the military and other people in farming.

“Loads of it is about problem-solving – nonetheless every careers entice people who merely want to get on and get a course of carried out.

“There’s a time to plan a course of, talk about it and take advice, nonetheless, lastly, you and your workforce should solely do it!

“I would like the Military recruited further from rural areas. Loads of youthful farmers are skilled mechanics by the age of 18 – and the army desires people like that.

“Nation individuals additionally perceive land and their navigation expertise are sometimes on-point.”

Gareth’s time with the businesses has given him good alternate options to journey to the US, throughout the Baltics and all through lots of Europe.

Implausible as this was, it was surpassed by the satisfaction of lambing for the first time.

“That was whirlwind; an emotional rollercoaster. However taking a lamb by means of from beginning to the purpose we may promote it as a top-quality product felt like an enormous achievement.”

Gareth’s moreover happy with the work he and Grace have carried out on the land – they’ve impressed public entry and are planning to plant hedgerows and timber.

“Farming’s not with out its challenges, in any case. One of many first points I found was that sheep are at all times making an attempt to kill themselves!

“But when there’s a topic I don’t know quite a bit about, I want to uncover out further – and grasp it.

“You have to be assured and clear, and stick collectively together with your dream even when people inform you it’s not going to work on account of there are a lot of people who will say that.

“Simply do it, although – you make a couple of errors, study and transfer on.”

Ever-keen to review, Gareth’s joined a Younger Farmers’ Membership as a way of networking and meeting people and sees the NFU Ambassador place as an incredible probability for personal enchancment and learning.

“Grace and I are at all times making an attempt points up on the net and watching ‘how-to’ YouTube clips, nonetheless there’s no larger technique of learning in farming than listening to the older expertise.

“In the end, we’ve all obtained two ears and one mouth, so we should always hear twice as a lot as we converse.”

In regards to the Ambassadors

Now in its third yr, the NFU Pupil and Younger Farmer Ambassador programme offers a gaggle of eight to 12 people a chance to characterize the NFU and the next expertise though a year-long assortment of events and experiences.

It’s an incredible different to neighborhood and to put their stamp on the way in which ahead for British farming.

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