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International Women’s Day: learning to be a farmer from scratch

Laura Hodgkins swapped a career in marketing to become a sheep and cattle farmer, running a flock of 1400 Romney ewes at Cocking Hill Farm on the South Downs. Laura tells us more about how she made the move from 9-5 to full-time shepherdess.

What gets you up in the morning?

At the moment, my 7-month-old daughter, shortly followed by my husband bearing a cup of tea. Hmm, I’ve just realised that you probably meant that question in a ‘motivational’ sense. So to that question, I’d probably answer ‘Looking out of the window onto the beautiful views of the fields that surround our house’!

How would you describe making the move from marketing into farming?

A sure baptism of fire. I left my job in marketing on the Friday and was up at 7 am the next day on the farm with my husband ripping out fence lines with a tractor, then moving a mob of 500 sheep straight after – all in the pouring rain!

What do you love most about your job?

Being outdoors and the fact that your life is very much also your job. Farming is certainly not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s lovely to have our daughter now, knowing that she will have the best setting for her childhood!

Are there any particular challenges of being a woman in the industry?

Being pregnant during lambing last year was a challenge, as I wasn’t able to be ‘hands-on’ at all, and it was horrible to have to just sit back and watch everyone else working so hard – I hated it.

I think it’s so great that there are a lot of young women from all sorts of non-farming backgrounds coming into the world of agriculture.

Any particular highlights of your career?

Our first lambing at Cocking Hill Farm. It was just incredible; the weather was amazing too which helped as we lamb all our sheep outside. I just remember loving every minute and not believing that this was my actual job!

If you could give one piece of advice to people starting in the industry, what would it be? 

Be brave and have faith in yourself. Lack of confidence has always been a bit of a barrier for me in the past. But just because you are new to something, it doesn’t mean you can’t bring valid opinions to the table. Sometimes an outsider’s view can change a situation for the better.

Read more about Laura in her farming and lifestyle blog - https://girlaboutthefarm.co.uk/

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International Women’s Day: learning to be a farmer from scratch Laura Hodgkins - from 9-5 to full-time shepherdess