Comment: Agricultural careers are open to all

It seems incredible that it took me until I was 18 to realise that coming from a non-farming family, I could consider a career in agriculture.

Lizzie Bentley is a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire group.

In my mind there’d been an unspoken assumption that farming was a job for people born and bred to it or who had married into a farming dynasty. It was a childhood dream, alongside becoming a ballerina or an astronaut - careers I’d dismissed as being unrealistic as I grew up. It never occurred to me that there was a myriad of associated job roles within the farming industry.

I remember everything slotting into place when I stumbled across the Bishop Burton College website. I was considering studying anthropology, marine biology, nursing and midwifery, even textile design. I kept exploring avenues, hoping for that light bulb moment and it arrived when I read the course description for a degree in agriculture. The list of possible careers open to graduates opened my eyes. I knew I’d found my calling.

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Whilst at college I joined the Future Farmers of Yorkshire to broaden my contacts and skills and now, aged 28, I work as technical support manager for Yorkshire Farmers Livestock Marketing Ltd which specialises in pig marketing for third party producers and also farms pigs in its own right.

I started working for the Malton-based farmer-owned co-op in January 2014 and we’ve since added a new arm: supporting farmers with environmental permits, assurance scheme paperwork and other requirements. It’s so varied and interesting. I meet farmers, work with abattoirs, feed companies, R&D and customers at home and abroad. We constantly face new challenges, working to improve productivity, welfare, meat eating, nutritional quality and combating antibiotic resistance and disease.

My first job was sheep drover at Malton Livestock Auctioneers, graduating to overseeing cull ewes and clerking. I went on to do contract shepherding and now my husband James and I are slowly realising our dream of establishing our own flock. We will lamb 50 Texel X ewes in February and a small flock of Llanwenogs in late-April.

What struck me early on, as a new entrant to the industry, was how welcoming and supportive people were. From farmers who gave up many hours to teach me shepherding skills, forklift driving, or milking cows and my current supportive work environment, helping me to create a new career. From my experience, I would urge people to consider a career in agriculture, whatever their background, gender or skill-set.

Lizzie is a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire group, established by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society to bring together younger farmers, vets and industry supporters.