The vegetable farm is the new love of the radio producer
In this week’s Women in Agriculture segment, It’s agriculture, talks to first generation farmer Emma-Victoria Houlton. The Covid-19 pandemic led her to swap radio production and podcasting for a role on a vegetable farm.
You can reinvent your career at any age, and Emma-Victoria Houlton, 37, is proof of that.
The Covid-19 pandemic was a turning point for the radio producer who operated her own production company for the past decade.
The pandemic has canceled and postponed many of Greater Manchester native Saddleworth’s contracts, and as a result cash flow “got tight pretty quickly.”
To help keep her small team at work, she decided to stop withdrawing her salary from her production company and start looking for a job.
She came across an article online, which pointed out that many farms are in desperate need of workers due to the pandemic and Brexit.
“I decided to go out and find a job on a farm,” she said. It’s agriculture editor, Catherina Cunnane.
Emma found a database of local farms online and contacted as many as she could.
She explained that it was quite competitive at the time as there were a lot of people on leave due to the pandemic looking for extra work.
She got a job as a field worker at a vegetable farm, Farringtons, two days after the first lockdown.
“The work was only supposed to be temporary to keep the money coming, but I quickly fell in love with farming and working outside.
“I had no experience working on a farm and had never been behind the wheel of a tractor. “
“I have since grown into a management and tractor driving role and still work on the farm now,” she added.
“If someone had told me years ago that I would be a farmer, I would have laughed at them.
“I had a very established media career at the time. Life on a farm seemed millions of miles away, ”added the radio and podcasting professional.
“However, I have always wanted to get into farming but I have no experience in this area; I just thought it would be a pipe dream. But needing to get that farm job because of the pandemic gave me the boost I needed. “
Paul, Stephen, Ben and Ron Farrington oversee the operation of the Spring Greens (Cabbage and Kale).
They sow and propagate their own cabbage and kale plants, as well as plants for other customers in their greenhouses at Hesketh Bank farm, Preston.
The crops are mainly grown at their site in Flintshire, North Wales. They plant with an automatic seeder and harvest spring greens all year round, manually with a team of people.
Their team packs the freshly harvested crops at the Hesketh Bank site and distributes them.
“Even though it can seem quite stressful at times, I like to solve problems. “
“Every day is very different. When I started working on the farm, I was thrown into the deep end, but I took it all in my stride.
“Agriculture has definitely taught me a lot about myself; it brought out confidence and resilience that I never thought possible.
“Mud, whether it’s the tractor or yourself stuck in it, is a challenge. We don’t have “downtime” when harvesting our crops; we harvest all year round. So, in winter, mud quickly becomes a challenge for us.
His main job is to drive the harvester and make sure the team is working as quickly and efficiently as possible.
She also leads the planting team during the planting season and is part of the Farringtons tractor team which takes care of all aspects of the land work such as plowing and subsoiling.
A typical day in his life on the vegetable farm
The former field worker lives an hour from the North Wales site where she works, so her day starts at 4:45 am. The team begins the harvest at 7 am.
“Orders are different every day, so we don’t know what time we’ll finish. “
“We have to stay until all the orders are placed. During the season, once the harvest is over and the team is away (usually around noon), I jump in the tractor to work the land for the rest of the day.
“Alternatively, I can replace Paul on the planter so he can leave and take care of other things on the farm. “
“During the season, I come home around 7 pm. In winter, my days are not so long, ”she added.
In her role at Farringtons, she leads a team. In her previous field of activity, she led and worked with a wide variety of teams.
“This experience was beneficial in getting the most out of the harvest team in the field. “
“Plus, running my own business allowed me to bring a different perspective from a non-farm industry to the farm business. “
“The farming community at large has been quite supportive, and I have already made a lot of friends who are also first generation farmers.”
Women in agriculture
As a first generation farmer and industry woman, she has revealed that she faces her fair share of challenges.
However, the family where she works “don’t treat me any differently from someone who has cultivated for years.”
“Everyone is expected to work just as well and as hard,” she added.
“We are expected to work as hard as a man. Over the past 18 months we have also become a female majority team at Farrington!
“Women are certainly starting to get the recognition they deserve. It’s great to see more women choosing to study agricultural subjects at university. “
“I think seeing other women move up through the ranks within the food industry will encourage others, especially in more technical or mechanical roles such as tractor driver or food engineer, which are not usually jobs. that women occupy. “
“Several female staff on our farm said seeing me in a leadership role and working with machines gave them the confidence to go out and try for themselves. “
“As a woman who drives a tractor, I have received a lot of trolling and hate comments online, all from men. “
“In addition, I have been the target of sexist comments from certain delivery drivers who have come to look for products on our sites.”
“I just let it all wash over me, though. Honestly, I don’t know what’s so shocking about a woman driving a heavy machine, but it seems to trigger a lot of men!
Emma has her eyes set on finding a farm business rental or shared farming opportunity in North Wales at the moment.
She wants to develop specialized fodder for the horse and companion animal market as well as a calf breeding business.
The 37-year-old plans to combine her podcasting experience and a new passion for farming with a new podcast series in 2022.
“I’ve gone back to a bit of production now that it’s winter, but I’ll definitely never do my full-time gig again.”
“I regret that I did not get into farming sooner,” she said. It is agriculture.
Seeds of success
She believes that being reliable and having a dynamic attitude are “the two qualities that will help you go far in a career in agriculture.”
“My advice to people is to get stuck! Try volunteering at a local farm; the only way to know if you’d like a career in farming is to try your luck for yourself.
“People from non-agricultural backgrounds can be farmers. You have to have passion, resilience and motivation and be able to work really hard like any other farmer.
“There are so many exciting advancements in precision technology that I believe will help us produce more efficiently and reduce food waste in the supply chain. There is also much more emphasis on regenerative farming techniques. “
“I would love to run a 200 acre farm, produce phenomenal forage and have a thriving precision breeding business; this is my ultimate goal.
Reflecting on her recent trip, she said: “I am an accidental farmer who fell in love with the art of driving a tractor and working in the outdoors.”
“I won the silver medal for farm worker of the year at the 2021 British Farming Awards. I have only been doing this for 18 months, so I was amazed to receive an award,” concluded the worker. vegetable farm.
Do you work on a vegetable farm? To share your story, send an email to [email protected]
See more profiles of women in agriculture.