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Swapping Heels for Wellies

Jo Lawrence tells us about swapping heels and partying for wellies and sheep to carry on the family farm in memory of her Dad.

Growing up in South Herefordshire I spent all my free time on the family farm which is where my passion for farming began - in particular my love of sheep. I grew up thinking I was the luckiest girl in the world having everything I could wish in comparison to others around me. Never in a million years did I think I’d lose one of the most important people in my life, on what seemed a normal day.

Home Farm

My family have been farming Home Farm for four generations (including myself). My Great Grandad passed it down to my Grandad – the late Jim Lawrence MBE, who passed it down to my Dad. Throughout the years of Home Farm being under the Lawrence name it has remained very much a family run business with each and every member of the family being involved in the running of the farm.

The 200 acre farm is some of the most fertile land in South Herefordshire and has always provided the perfect base for a mixed farm, as it continues to be today. At present, Home Farm consists of 60 acres of arable land and 140 acres of grazing land.

The arable includes a rotation of Winter Wheat, Winter Oats, Fodder Beet, Red Clover and a field rented to a neighbouring farmer for Potatoes. The wheat is used as a cash crop and for the straw for bedding. The oats are fed back to my sheep as a ration with protein pellets through 3 in 1 feeders. The fodder beet is fed to both the sheep and cattle mainly through the winter and spring months whilst grass growth is lower and pastures are heavily stocked. I have recently introduced red clover leys since taking over to increase protein levels when making silage for the sheep and cattle to eat through the winter months. In theory decreasing concentrate usage. It has proved very successful so far with some silage being 20.1% protein which would be extremely hard to achieve on a basic normal grass ley as well as it being hugely beneficial to the soil being a legume with its nitrogen fixing properties. The red clover, however takes a little more managing as it can cause infertility if grazed at the wrong time of year.

The livestock side of Home Farm which utilises the 140 Acres of grazing land – some permanent pastures and some new leys. This provides the base for our flock of 530 commercial texel cross breeding ewes with their lambs at foot, 40 beltex cross breeding ewes of my own, 150 texel cross ewe lambs, 50 ewe lambs of my own and 25 tups. The commercial flock produce lambs to be sold live in the local market. We sell the lambs when they reached 40kg live weight. My flock is used to produce breeding tups and ewes which have been introduced into both flocks over the past couple of years with some showing great potential. Over the past three years I have introduced cattle back onto the farm; my Dad always promised to buy me cattle once I had completed my course at Hartpury College. At Home Farm we now have 12 pedigree Beef Shorthorn cows with this year’s calves at foot, 6 pedigree Beef Shorthorn weanlings and 6 dairy bred Angus calves of my own which I reared this year on supplement milk. I found that introducing cattle at Home Farm has been a huge benefit: providing manure for the arable land and improving grass usage by mix grazing across the farm.

Being a Farmer

The unpredictability, multitasking and isolation definitely wasn’t what attracted me to farming. On the other hand; the reward, determination and passion definitely played a part in making me decide farming was what I wanted to follow. Of course growing up on the farm I was fortunate enough to have it all on my back doorstep. Seeing the enjoyment and passion the farm had given my late Grandad and Dad gave me all the proof and convincing I needed to take the leap into the farming. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else; even on the bad days, I couldn’t imagine being sat at a desk day in day out.

Attempting to Step into Dad’s Boot’s

Working on the family farm was always one of my dreams in life but not quite as soon or sudden as it happened. I was always one to have my life super planned out. I was to finish my three year college course at Hartpury and then go travelling – which my Dad always encouraged. I wanted to build my knowledge on a range of different farming systems across the world. In particular, I was set on going to work in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and America. I still hope to visit all of them sometime just when the time is right for me. I then planned on getting a job and just being around to help my Dad whenever he needed. I always thought I would have my own little family before I even considered having to take over from my Dad. I didn’t see myself coming back to Home Farm for a long time, especially not at 17 years old. However, when everything happened I didn’t think twice. I didn’t want to be anywhere else and I certainly didn’t want my Dads legacy disappearing.

My Dad

My Dad has always been my inspiration and role model. He was the BFG of the farming community. I couldn’t go anywhere without being referred to as Bob Lawrence daughter and I of course loved it. He was a well-respected farmer and would give you his opinion whether you asked for it or not. When I spoke at his funeral this line brought a touch of humour to the sadden church: I still get people coming to me to this day re-sighting it saying it sums up my Dad perfectly. “It’s fair to say my Dad had a very strong opinion and wasn’t afraid to voice it whether my dress was too short, I had too much make up on or the boy didn’t have enough acres.” My Dad was definitely one of a kind. I will never get over the devastation I felt the day I found out I wouldn’t be able to ask him about his day on the farm whilst I had been at work. It never ever gets easier losing someone. You just learn to cope with it and try to make them as proud as you can. No words will ever do my Dad justice.

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Swapping Heels for Wellies Jo Lawrence
Texel Crosses and Beltex Crosses
Jo and her late father, Bob Lawrence