A day in the life of a … farmer
Farmers play an important role in producing the healthy, nutritious food we eat. There are nearly 280,000 farms in the UK and 60% of all food eaten in the UK is grown on British farms.
So, what does a farmer do each day to produce the food we eat? Hew Willett farms with his family near Chelmsford in Essex on a 475ha (about 888 football fields) arable farm. They grow milling wheat, which supplies a local mill, barley, oats and beans.
What time do you wake up?
6am, ready for the day ahead!
What do you have for breakfast?
I enjoy Weetabix for breakfast, which is made from wheat grown in the UK. Sometimes, I also have a slice of toast made using flour milled from wheat. We grow this type of wheat on our farm.
What's the first thing you do when you get to work?
At the moment, I’m checking the sheep first thing in the morning. On the way to the sheep, I’m walking past crops of wheat and barley, checking for any pests, weeds or disease.
What skills do you need for your job?
A good education is essential. I have a degree in Agriculture, which gave me a good background knowledge of the science behind growing crops. Some of the most important skills now involve technology – there is a vast amount of computer software in a tractor now. I use lots of mapping software to help grow our crops, including drones, satellites and complex algorithms to help identify areas of fields that can be improved.
What's the best (and worst) thing about your job?
The best things about my job include:
Working outside in good weather
Travelling around the country/world to compare how other farmers work
Meeting consumers who are interested in where their food comes from
Being able to keep a good work-life balance (not always being at work!)
The worst bit about my job is that farming is often portrayed as damaging the environment, which is completely untrue. We do a lot for the environment on our farm – we have flowers and ponds for wildlife, look after our ditches and love seeing birds nesting and singing above our crops.
What question do you always get asked?
What animals do you have? Not all farms have livestock – we’ve only reintroduced sheep in the last year.
Why are there grass paths around some fields? They’re not actually paths, they are wildlife habitats, which are planted there to provide lots of species of plants and animals with food and shelter.
What do you most want to tell people about your job?
Farming is a fantastic career in which I can see a lot of potential going into the future. The best thing about my job is the variety of work that I get to do. It’s not just sitting on a tractor all year long – in fact I probably spend fewer than 50 days a year on one…and even when I do, it steers itself using satellites!
I spend time looking at the chemistry and biology of growing combinable crops, working on business plans, designing financial targets to meet, using computer software to map the best and worst performing parts of the farm.
Working on the farm also give me great flexibility – yes we are busy in the summer, but in the winter there’s plenty of time to pursue other activities whether that be another business idea…or jetting away for a good holiday.