“More than eight in ten (82 per cent) of UK adults have experienced stress because of the pandemic” (Mental Health Foundation, 2020).
Given the year we’ve had this was no great surprise for me to read but still, it really compounded in me that what we all need to keep moving forward, is to de-stress, to laugh, love and live a joy-filled 2021.
For #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, I thought I would write about what I do to keep a healthy mind. I can’t tell you what is good for you but I can tell you what is good for me, so here are my top 3 things to keep my mind healthy...
1. Embrace the outdoors: The theme for 2021’s Mental Health Awareness Week campaign is 'Nature', and personally I think a bit of time with nature & some exploring of the outdoors is the tonic we all need after being shut inside for so long. I’m a great believer in time spent outdoors being good for the mind, body and soul - which is lucky as I don’t seem to see much of the inside of our house at the moment! I don’t think there is anything more difficult for a workaholic (yes, I confess!) than to sit still and be in the moment so I try to challenge myself to ‘listen’ to nature at some point every day.
2. Be alone: This one isn’t for everyone but for me, in a household which often has 6 children who all need something from me, and a husband who needs help finding the socks he already has on his feet, sometimes I need to take 10 minutes to myself (ok I need to take more than 10 but 10 is all I can get hold of, for now) so... I try to hide (usually in the bathroom!) often enough that I can have some brain space to myself before I explode!
3. Work: This is a big one for me, I have always worked to keep mentally healthy. Not an easy task after children but still essential to stop me entering a low mood. Having a purpose and a feeling that I am contributing to my family keeps me happy. It’s a fine balance though, I’m currently trying to reign in my aspirations to something a little more manageable than the crazy amount of hours I’ve been pulling this spring.
But it all feels so worth it - one of the best compliments I’ve had since opening our visitor attraction in April this year is: “You can tell that you guys have children”. This may not sound like much, but it means a lot. It means that we have managed to create what we set out to - a place that enables families to feel relaxed and spend some quality time together and experience something new. I am amazed when I watch over the farm at weekends and see how peaceful it is, there is nothing but a sweet hum of noise coming from the visitor paddocks despite the number of children!
The Mental Health Foundation said that “Approximately 68% of women and 57% of men with mental health problems are parents”. I think I’ll be in awe of every family that arrives at the farm this year as they have conquered so much in the past 12 months - dear families, you are all resilient, amazing, superhumans!
Thank you to everyone who has visited us this year already and to those who haven’t - I look forward to meeting you all.
Get outdoors in 2021, mental health matters.
Both Part 1 and 2 of our Women in Agriculture mini blog series have focused on women involved in, and driving, tourism diversification projects. For Part 3, we interviewed Emma Gray who is predominantly known for being highly successful in sheepdog breeding and training, a diversification project in itself but perhaps more traditional. Emma, her husband Ewan and son Len have recently featured in BBC Two’s documentary series “This Farming Life”, all about farmers and their experiences over the course of a year - well worth a watch on BBC iPlayer if you didn’t catch it!
With Emma’s experience running both her own farm ‘Fallowlees’ and her joint venture with Ewan at their new farm on the Isle of Bute, we asked her what she thinks women bring to the agriculture table and who she views as a female role model in her industry…
“I think women have better empathy compared to men, and I think this translates into a better understanding of people and animals needs, beyond the obvious
As for my first role model… it would be my mum. She wasn't from a farming family but was expected to deal with everything from the get go. Then later Katy Cropper. I remember devouring her book and being very impressed by the fact that she was still very feminine and was well respected in the industry and she didn’t have to act like a man to get that recognition. Later on I was to discover Julie Hill as well, also a well respected dog handler and the only female winner of the Supreme International Championship. These two women really trail blazed the sheepdog industry and farming as a whole for me.
Sheepdog breeding and training is more than a job for Emma, it's something that she is hugely passionate about. At 23, Emma wrote her first book “One Girl and Her Dogs” which details the period of her life where she built her own life and path to success. We asked Emma what her most proud moment would be when she looks back on that path so far…
“My proudest moments have been winning the Nursery final the second time and beating the world record a second time, because it proved it wasn't a flash in the pan! The second time meant I was getting consistent not lucky”
In the last couple of years, Emma has also “diversified” into motherhood, and raises son Len alongside running her farm businesses with fireman turned farmer, Ewan. We asked her how she’s found the progression to motherhood as a farmer, and her answer was admirably honest, but also hugely familiar to so many who live such a full on, independent life…
“Having Len was a real struggle, I'm not a natural born mother and am naturally very independent. It felt like my wings were clipped, but now we have progressed past the newborn stage I feel much better about it. I do feel guilty often, but I think guilt and motherhood go hand in hand!”
Well we’d definitely agree with that one. Being true to your own passions and dreams does carry a level of guilt for any mother but we’re firm supporters of all women (not just in agriculture) being able work their way towards their own goals. We asked Emma what her advice would be to any women who want to get involved in agriculture or who want to grow their involvement in the industry...
“My advice, don't try to be someone else, just be the best version of yourself. At the beginning I was always trying to emulate other people, trying to copy their path, trying to be a woman, being a man, in a man’s world. Now I've realised it's much more fun being a woman in a man's world!”
Advice that probably applies to life, not just agriculture!
If you would like to read more about Emma’s life, her book One Girl and Her Dogs is available on Amazon and you can catch up on This Farming Life on BBC iPlayer now.
Following on from our interview with Lucy Tile in Part 1 of our ‘Women in Agriculture’ mini blog series, we caught up with Louise Nicoll, co-owner of Newton Farm Holidays with her husband Graeme, near Forfar in Angus.
Newton Farm Holidays offer rural breaks, farm tours and alpaca experiences and are proud winners of 2 of Visit Scotland's Regional Thistle Awards for the Most Hospitable B&B/Guesthouse and the Best Outdoor Experience.
Up to and beyond winning those awards, Louise and Graeme work hard to create a great rural experience for their visitors, but how long ago did they start diversifying their farm business into agritourism?
“We initially started offering B&B in 2006 which would be our first diversification although I don't believe we really had an agritourism business until 2012”.
From our own experience, we know there can be challenges in building up an agritourism business. We asked Louise what the most difficult part of starting something new was and what was difficult about bringing the public onto the farm...
“The hardest part about bringing the public onto the farm was our own misgivings I think. It was all too easy to blame the farm, the estate, insurance, health and safety, environmental health as causative factors which would prevent us. In the end it was all pretty straight forward and everyone was really supportive
I think seeking advice is my number one [recommendation for people looking to diversify], don't go in blind and there are many people out there who have valuable experience that they can offer.”
Newton Farm Holidays, like Jacksons at Jedburgh, are members of Go Rural Scotland, a community of farmers across Scotland who are all passionate about promoting rural tourism and produce, and engagement with farming life. The group offers support and guidance to members along the way as we all hope to see greater awareness of what farmers and rural communities can offer. Go Rural includes lots of fantastic women, like Louise, who have been born into farming or have married into farming and are now significantly adding to what agriculture can offer.
We asked Louise who her female business or agriculture role model is and why she feels, in comparison to other areas in agriculture, there is such a strong female presence in diversification projects on farms...
“My role model was my Mum. Clear and simple, she had a difficult time in an abusive marriage and ended up as a single parent in the mid 70's, juggling to look after a baby and both her parents who had strokes and in those days there were no benefits to help you.
She took advantage of the new VAT system, retrained herself and started a bookkeeping business. From here she met my dad (I'm part adopted) and once they were married there was no stopping her entrepreneurial streak.
They set up and ran several different businesses over many years, always ahead of their time, including a kitchen and sauna business, an old folks home, several video rental shops and finally a B&B, which she is still running at the age of 79.
[In terms of the success of women in agriculture diversification], I think it can depend on where the women may have started from. For me, my parents grew up on farms and my dad had been a farmer but I never actually had that experience growing up so I came with a different skill set to offer. Often in my experience, the "farmer" who has grown up on the farm is entrenched in a way of life that may be difficult to see past. The reality for our own situation was, I wanted to help and prove myself as an asset to the family but didn’t have a place to fit into the farm to begin with. I took over the accounts first and once I had my twins I needed to do something more and it grew from there.
My main driver is my family and the desire to support them but also I care about the customer experience. I love to see people happy, relaxed and enjoying themselves. It is great to hear positive feedback and I thrive on that”.
If you’d like to visit Newton Farm Holidays throughout the year, visit their website now for more information on how to book! https://newtonfarmholidays.co.uk/
To coincide with our @WomenInAgriculture Instagram #TakeoverTuesday yesterday, we thought that we would explore what it’s like being a woman, not just working but leading and driving success, in agriculture.
We’ve spoken to three women and have split their interviews into a 3-part mini blog series! In Part 1, we hear from fellow local farmer and diversification boss, Lucy Tile, who runs self-catering holiday cottages at the Bairnkine near Jedburgh. In Part 2, we introduce half of the fourth generation farming duo at the Newton of Fothringham Farm and owner of Newton Farm Holidays, Louise Nicoll. And in Part 3, we hear some personal insights from a familiar face from BBC Two’s ‘This Farming Life’, nationally renowned sheepdog breeder and trainer, Emma Gray.
But firstly… Just why might women be the future of farming?
Ok well maybe not the future, not the only gender in the future - after all we are not going to eradicate men.. or are we?
More and more women are now at the forefront of farming and we are darn right here to stay. For so long the most common role for women in farming has been that of the ‘farmer’s wife’. Now that is a title I personally own and am proud of, but like so many other women in my position it just isn’t a good enough description for the many roles we fulfil each day! With help from the fingertips, brain power and the sheer determination of women, agriculture is making great forward progress. Farmer’s wife, farmer in her own right, diversification entrepreneur like myself, or commonly all three and more, women in agriculture manage their roles as expertly as a seasoned street juggler - knives and flaming batons galore! I’m not sure if there’s any industry which requires the born-with-skill of multitasking quite as much as farming!
So as mentioned above, I spent this month interviewing my fellow countryside loving, muddy-booted, scruffy-on-the-school-run gender sisters and heard about some of their experiences of their chosen role working in agriculture…
First up we have Lucy Tile who lives, and runs a tourism diversification business, at the Bairnkine, near our farm on the outskirts of Jedburgh. As she was not born into a farming family, Lucy has had to adjust to farming life and after many learning experiences, she has taken the lead of the beautiful self catering cottages at their family farm. It didn’t always feel like second nature though...
“The biggest hurdle [when marrying into farming life] was having to learn everything… fast! There was so much to learn and take in as my knowledge was zero! I think Matt had second thoughts when he realised I thought you decided on a tractor and then let the dealership know what colour you wanted! Just like a car...”
From those early days, Lucy has grown her knowledge and is now welcoming people onto the farm to stay and experience rural life in the Scottish Borders. But where does her drive and inspiration come from?
“I love meeting new people and chatting to them about what we do. We are passionate about farming, the countryside and conservation so what's not to like about letting people know? I love when they take a walk on the farm and visit one of the ponds or see a deer or buzzard”.
Despite the amazing scenery and abundance of wildlife in the local area, it’s not just farming and conservation that Lucy is passionate about. At the Bairnkine, it can sometimes be a three strong female team, and Lucy points out that their strength lies in their ability to work together whilst focusing on shared farming values...
“Compassion and drive to succeed are two of the best skills women bring to agriculture. We also work well as part of a team. Our values are the same as men where farming is concerned, we just sometimes want to go about it in a different way. Men and women work well together on farms. The partnership has been there for generations”.
And for generations, farming has been built on the memories and skills of those that came before us. We asked Lucy what her best farming memory or accomplishment was to date…
“I have lots of memories….. I love a sunny lambing! Early on when we first arrived Matt had me doing some things that I just got on and did, with hindsight and what I know now I may have said no! I was sent off in a tractor with a mower on the back to cut firebreaks on a hill. I was hanging on for dear life thinking “it must be safe as I was told to do it”. I am not sure I would be keen to be at that angle in a tractor now! My best accomplishment is an easy one - my daughter!”
If you’re looking to book a relaxing, rural staycation this summer, check out the self-catering cottages at the Bairnkine! You can visit their website here: https://www.bairnkinecottages.co.uk/
Over the course of a few months around 1800 lambs will take their first wobbly steps here on the green fields of Kersheugh farm. With different breeds and age groups of sheep lambing in specific groups, lambing time here stretches from the last week of March up until the end of May. This way of planning our spring not only stretches out the workload at one of our busiest times of year, but also means that there are new born lambs for visitors to see for even longer than normal - win-win!
So what’s different on the farm at lambing time?
Things are just a little more hectic than usual (if that’s possible!)
Throughout the months of spring we are concentrating on the successful arrival and mothering of newborn lambs and calves. This means more frequent observation of what is happening out in the fields to make sure the stock are okay and a lot of record taking in the calving fields - we record the mothers ear tag number, when she had her calf, her temperament, her location and then give the calf its very own set of earrings too.
What’s different about OUR farm at lambing time?
Here at Kersheugh farm, we aim for our animals to need as little human intervention as possible. This means creating an environment for our animals where they have the very best chance to succeed without our intervention. The less we need to catch, handle and interfere with the mother and offspring the better, every step of the way. To be able to birth naturally outdoors and nurture with success are the most wonderful things to observe. Sheep and cows may have been domesticated by humans but by keeping specific breeds on our farm and managing them well, their natural instincts are incredible to watch. It is truly an honour to observe and admire the birth and first feed of a newborn animal here at the farm. No matter the long days, how poor the weather and how tired our eyes, we can always spare a minute to sit still and watch that magic happen.
The hardest part of lambing time?
Where there is new life there is also loss and this never gets any easier for us as farmers. We will alway question the ‘what ifs’ and be disappointed to see a mother without a lamb or lamb without its mother. This is part of life and unavoidable, always a reminder of why we take such care of the livestock on the farm
How do we juggle family and farming at the busiest time?
We can’t just stop work because school is done for the day so spring time at the farm means a lot of chatter filled trips in the Land Rover. Most days the kids come home, haul on a set of ‘farm clothes’ and pile into the Land Rover (which I have fully equipped - there is no better way to keep kids happy than.. SNACKS!) Sometimes they draw, film their outings on iPads or just sit and chit chat in the back. We have a rota for who’s turn it is to roll the ‘coupies’ (sheep stuck on their backs needing help to turn over!)
If you’re interested in finding out more about lambing and seeing some of the action from around Scotland as well as Kersheugh Farm, Go Rural are running their live lambing event series, Lambathon, for the second year this year!
Lambathon allows people to tune into lambing sheds and fields at different farms throughout the spring and Jacksons at Jedburgh will be hosting Lambathon at Kersheugh Farm from 1pm on both the 31st of March and the 28th of April this year. Go Rural Lambathon events start on Sunday the 28th of March with Kitchen Coos & Ewes (in Dumfries and Galloway) and the full list of Lambathon events can be found on their Facebook page here.
Ahead of the day that we all celebrate love around the world and ahead of our 2021 Spring Sessions, I thought that it would be a good idea to introduce the Jackson clan to our new followers by telling you all about five things that we, as a family, love...
1. What better to be number one than... We LOVE farming!
We love the livestock, the sunny days, the wet days (the snow days a little less!) And feel lucky to live the lifestyle we do - yes, it is hard graft but it is equally as rewarding- I don’t think either Fenwick or I would call it ‘work’. We are second generation farmers at Kersheugh Farm and tenants of the Kerr family's Lothian Estate. The farm sits close to Ferniehirst Castle which is steeped in local history and has been in the possession of the Kerr family since the 14th century! You can read more about the Castle on their website.
2. We have a big family and we LOVE it.
Step families are one quick way to get to a full household, and between us we share 6 children. Life certainly isn’t without its challenges but a table full of kids, friends and family on a Sunday is what we enjoy the most. We started Jacksons at Jedburgh so we could both work from home at the farm. We can switch with ease from looking after the kids to checking the lambing fields and welcoming visitors to the farm.
3. We LOVE Jacksons at Jedburgh.
A small flicker of an idea that we had in 2019 has grown faster than we ever expected. Since opening we have been fortunate to meet so many wonderful people visiting the farm. Beginning 2021 might be daunting with a pandemic over our heads but it is also very exciting for us as we look forward to hosting many more visits to the farm this year.
4. We LOVE local.
There are so many fantastic businesses in Jedburgh and the surrounding area. We support as many of these as we can personally but to be able to bring people to the area and then let them know about all the other places they can visit near to us is brilliant. To name but a few - there’s Briggsy’s Quality Butchers, Ferniehirst Castle, Bairnkine Holiday Cottages, The Capon Tree Town House and Border Meringues. All places to stay, visit or eat in the local area.
5. We LOVE the Borders
Although Fenwick and I have travelled and enjoyed other parts of the world, we belong forever to the Borders. Fenwick was born and raised here at Kersheugh Farm and went to school in Jedburgh and I grew up and went to school in Earlston. The landscape here is something that could never become dull- the farm itself looks across to Ruberslaw and the Waterloo Monument (commonly referred to locally as Peniel Heugh). The sunsets from the top of the farm are a reason in themselves to get up and take to the fields on a summer’s evening.
A happy Valentine's Day from all of us at Jacksons at Jedburgh, we hope you get to do the things you love and spend time with the ones that you love today, whether that's digitally or in person!
No we're not panicking at all !!! ... HONEST
It's now the countdown to our 4 Christmas wreath workshops, 2 days of photoshoots and the 2 'Magic on the Farm' days that we are hosting in the month of December (as if being a parent in the run up to Christmas isn't already hard enough!!). Despite the 'new adventure nerves' frequently adding themselves to my mega TO DO list and saying 'but nobody will come' I am feeling incredibly festive and excited about the events ahead. Now, inside the venue, many of my crazy ideas are about to come together and the 'Jacksons at Jedburgh winter wonderland' 2019 shall be born!
News from the farm: Cattle are now being moved to different areas for the winter, both on our farm and elsewhere. The fields are too wet and muddy for them to stand in and the grass has stopped growing- they are however still outside- lets see how many of you can figure that one out...
To add to things unfortunately Fenwick was injured last week which hasn't helped the smooth running of the farm or our project. He's been in and out of the BGH for antibiotics but is on the mend. Thank goodness for that- I need my handyman to carry out all those crazy ideas I talked about :D
THE. WORK. NEVER. STOPS!! Luckily being parents and with the youngest still in toddlerhood it means we're used to getting no sleep so we wont notice the difference over the next few weeks at all... I'm sure ... I'm really sure ... ask again in January
We are two months into our diversification adventure. The whole process predates a lot more than 8 weeks worth of thinking, time and work but 2 months ago we commissioned the logo, built the website and put us live on social media for the world to see! What a great couple of months it has been. We have cleared and washed our venue, made our first ticket sales, gathered a following online in excess of 500 people and are currently (and a little frantically!!) prepping for the festive season. I cannot wait to welcome lots of people to our farm and our new venue in the month of December. Think sparkling fairy lights, ivy entwined beams, festive chandeliers and warm, marshmallow topped hot chocolates warming winter hands- How could anyone not be excited!!
I’ve been asked...WHAT EXACTLY ARE WE PLANNING??? Well: we are a brand new diversification project in our very early stages meaning we have so many ideas- where do we start?
To try and sum it up - our plans are to open an on farm venue to use for many activities to benefit and enrich the lives of those around us including ourselves- we love people!! From blogging regularly here on Faceook to craft groups, parties, days out with the kids and farm tours. We are passionate about educating people about farming and why our business and way of life is important. Soon to be volunteering for a scheme with RHET we hope local schools can benefit from coming to the farm in the future to learn all about farm to fork and what we do on a daily and seasonal basis. Roll on the future!