From fashion to farming

Growing up in the Devon countryside meant Emily Pearse always felt connected to agriculture, but she didn’t initially consider it as a career. Now, having established herself in several different farming roles, she was a finalist in the 2022 Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year award.

With a natural flair for illustration at school, a fashion design degree seemed like the obvious next step for Emily Pearse. However, it wasn’t long before she could see it wasn’t for her.

“I itched to be outside, desperate to escape the city and head back into the countryside. The most enjoyable part of my day was the bus journey home, the green fields peppered with sheep meant I was back where I was happiest,” she says.

She contacted Bicton, her local agricultural college, about its apprenticeship programme and was paired up with a beef and sheep farm for an interview.

“Within five minutes of the farm tour, I knew it was where I needed to be. Once I’d completed my apprenticeship, I applied to study agriculture at university and was accepted.”

“Our industry’s resilience is admirable”

Four years later and she manages a beef herd on her partner’s family farm, runs her own flock of North Country Mules and works as a contract shepherdess.

Emily is proud to work in agriculture. “We are producing food to feed our country and that makes me immensely proud.” She loves the sense of community and support among farmers too. “Our industry’s resilience is admirable. We know just how tough farming can be, and there is no doubt that if you need a hand, a farmer would be there to step in and help. Without the enthusiasm and encouragement of the people I have worked for and with, I doubt I would have the confidence I do now.”

On a personal level, she loves the challenges her career gives her. “If I’m not being pushed or have stopped learning something new every day, I know something will need to change.

“For me, the next step is improvement on the farm and continuing to steer it towards being both profitable and sustainable for the future. I’ve been lucky enough to judge a few North of England Mule Sheep Association sales each year, and continue to enjoy making connections in our industry.

“Perhaps the most nerve-wracking progression for me though, is getting my youngest dog out on the trial field. That in itself is a career goal I never thought I would reach. It’s amazing how sometimes even the smallest ambitions can mean the most!”

“There’s no end to inspirational females working in our industry”

Emily believes the industry is becoming more inclusive and is excited to see new entrants getting involved. “Generally, I think women have the same opportunities as everyone else and there are several wonderful organisations dedicated to promoting females in our industry.”

She is pleased social media has given female farmers a platform. “I often wonder if there had been more female role models for the industry when I was younger, if I would have gone straight into agriculture. It almost seemed inaccessible as a young girl, but I now know there’s no end to inspirational females working in our industry.”

Emily advises other young people to never stop learning: “There are so many sources available to access for free, and many of them produced by industry experts. Podcasts are a great resource to learn from while on the go.

“The one piece of advice I always stand by is that hard work can get you anywhere you want to be. Fortunately, I have never experienced discrimination in this industry, and I think a lot of this comes down to the fact that if you work hard, then nobody can complain.

“Finally, I’d say if you have the right attitude and you’re willing to try, you will never go wrong.”

Pull quote: “I often wonder if there had been more female role models for the industry when I was younger, if I would have gone straight into agriculture.”

Image credit: Emily Fleur Photography

drones used for farming

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