It is always a pleasure speaking to next gen farmers, the most refreshing thing is their ambition, willingness to learn and overall attitude towards farming. FarmLand Magazine speaks to 16 year old school Farmer Ethan Kinney who is following his dreams of becoming a contract shepherd, starting with Bow his young Border Collie and a flock of Zwartables,Texels, and Hampshire Downs, Ethan one day hopes to become a well known face in the Farming world. We all wish him the best of luck!
Tell us about your background?
I come from a none Farming background. I’m from the Merseyside/Wirral so I never really thought about farming, there aren’t really many farms around the Wirral. I have always loved animals dogs, cats and rabbits you name it – I’ve always been a animal lover and I knew I wanted to work with animals, just never imagined it would be farm animals.
Tell me about your childhood?
I live in a little quiet area called Tranmere in the Wirral with my Mum and I have the best parents I could ask for, but things weren’t always easy. My Mum and Dad split when I was very young. When I was little I had the best childhood I could of asked for! My Mum gave me so much! When I was 11/12 life did get a little hard as my mum got breast cancer and my nan (her Mum) passed away when we were living with her – she was looking after me and my mum. But that’s what helped me also get into farming! I needed a Hobby and I found it – and so farming began!
What incentives are there for someone have to become a farmer who didn’t grow up as one?
The biggest incentives that people need to get into farming is an opportunity. We need to be able to give people the chance to experience it, to understand it and to do it. That was what I was given – I has the chance to ‘just get stuck in’. My advice to other people like me would be to ‘do as much as you can to get to the place you want to be, show your determination and your passion as they will get you a long way’.
What is the best part of what you’re doing?
Right now I am still in school and I’ve just finished my Level 2 Animal Care so Farming is something I do for experience, rather than or being a paid job, although I would love a paid job! We have a farm at school so a lot of my lessons are based there, but I stay after school and also work there of a weekend. I really enjoy it but I would say the best part of it is Lambing time as I LOVE welcoming new life into the world. This year I worked on a few farms in Cumbria as a lambing assistant, it was amazing as I not only had the chance to be part of the farming team but really got to understand so much more about the day to day workings of both small and larger farms.
Does anything scare you?
Nothing much scares me really, apart from when I was younger I really was scared of cows because of how big they were and how small I was.
What do you think are the biggest challenges that farming faces today?
People don’t value what we produce and aren’t prepared to par for the quality and so the price squeeze only hits one place – the farmers. Dairy Farmers are struggling because the price of a pint of milk is going down and there not making end meet never mind making a profit from it – its made you can buy 4 pints of milk for less than a bottle of water – that’s just not right! The meat industry isn’t much better either and if its not bad enough that farmers get such low prices for meat, we are then seeing an increase in sheep deaths from dog attacks from dog owners NOT keeping there dogs on leads!
What do you think is important when dealing with the current challenges?
Its’ hard to me to make an impact at the moment because of where I am in my career but I am trying to learn as much as I can so that when I have the opportunity I can make a positive impact. Keeping farming costs as low as possible whilst not lowering quality is important. When I was on the farm at lambing I was learning about rotational grazing and how adopting practices like that really helps to lower the costs of additional food sources. As a school farm we are always trying to promote the message of field to fork and are trying to get people my age to understand the benefits of quality produce and that it comes at a cost!
Where do you see yourself and farming in general in 10 or 20 years’ time?
I definitely see myself contract shepherding around the UK with Bow my border collie. Bow is only 3 months at the moment and by the time I leave school, I plan to have her trained up and ready to start work with me – we will be a team set for the future! I’d like to think that I could find a full time job on a progressive farm, but I know that I will have to work my way up to that and I will do what I need to do to get there. Ideally I would love to have my own farm, that’s the dream, but I am taking it a step at a time!
In your view, of all the issues facing farmers which is the most significant one?
The financial pressures that farmers are under is the biggest challenge that is effecting the industry and that I know will effect me. Finding employment will be my biggest challenge, farmers are operating at the bare minimum in terms of costs and so full time and even secure part time jobs are hard to come by – they just can’t afford to pay people and are using more casual labour – that’s why I know I will need to contract at first and fil my spare time with additional jobs to make ends meet.
How do you think we can we best utilise technology to help sustain farming ?
Good rotational is really important. While I was lambing I spent time with a progressive farmer measuring grasses so he could decide where his stock would be put out to . I had no idea that that was common practice but it works, he has taken massive costs out of his additional food supply. The shepherd I was with this spring was Hannah Jackson @redshepherdess (pictured below) Hannah had spent a month lambing with Neil Perkins in Wales. She was telling me all about how they are using technology to speed up processes, to better understand their flocks and to increase productivity. There ability to track a lamb from birth through is amazing. They make difficult decisions re the flock based not just on what they see but on what data is telling them. We need to be moving more like this.
What are you most proud of?
Definitely all the experiences I have had through these past 3-4 years of farming and what I have achieved in so little time. I’m only 16 and for a ‘townie’ I have learnt so much but know I have so much more to learn which I am ready for.
Do you have any secret skills that we don’t know you have?
Well for a 16 year old who isn’t Farming on a Big scale just yet I can drive quads, catch & herd sheep with and without dogs and I’ve lambed lots of sheep. When I was lambing in Cumbria I learnt to bake cakes…….don’t tell anyone about that though it’s a secret!
If you have enjoyed reading this and want to follow my journey then to follow @futurefarmer365 on Twitter! I really hope you have enjoyed reading this, and one day I hope to be as big as some of the inspirational Farmers on Twitter!