Age: 21 | Location: Cornwall, UK
Not many people receive a tractor for their birthday, especially when their birthday is Christmas Day, but The Farmer remembers distinctly that it was this her Dad gave her when she turned twelve.
‘It was a little Dexter. I remember renovating it with him in the evenings after school. In the farming community, if you've got a tractor-loving family like me it's pretty average. My dad's got seventeen tractors. A tractor for each implement so you don't have to unhitch the plough or the cultivator. But he uses the same tractor for everything.’
Now, at only twenty-one, The Farmer is starting her own farming family. Her partner’s a farmer too, so they work their fields side by side, not far from the sea.
‘He's an absolutely silly sod. We're like a pair of kids when we get together. But he’s got his own farm that he built up. When he was fourteen he bought some sheep for himself and now he's got just over one hundred cattle. He's managed to - with the price of land and everything - he's managed to rent his own land. He's got just under two hundred acres now.’
Nine weeks ago, and against all odds, the pair welcomed their first son.
‘When I was about thirteen I was told I was infertile. At that age, you're not thinking about kids, are you? You're thinking about what you can get up to on the weekend without your parents finding out. I wasn't worried. I thought of it as a free card sort of thing. It never affected me.'
'From then on, I sort of grew up into womanhood knowing that I couldn't have kids.’
I notice The Farmer is wearing glamorous dangly earrings. Maybe pearls, but the internet connection isn’t great so it’s hard to distinguish exactly what they are. I wonder if she was wearing them to shear sheep, which is what she has been doing all morning.
‘Then all of a sudden, eleven months ago now, my other half was calling 111 at like three o'clock in the morning. I was in so much pain. They thought it was loads of cysts that popped up at once. I went into the doctor’s the next day and did a pregnancy test but she was like ‘No, that's negative’. I did all the other tests, got an urgent referral to the hospital, and then she went to put the pregnancy test in the bin and went, ‘Oh no. You are pregnant. Congratulations.’
‘I just stood there and my life sort of flashed in front of my eyes.’
When figures of authority make statements, the average person is inclined to believe them. If a doctor says something to you, you accept it. You believe them. That's how it works. Unfortunately for The Farmer, these statements were wrong twice.
‘When we found out about him we were also told he was ectopic, which means he's grown outside of the fallopian tube, and that we would have to… terminate him, sort of thing, yeah. That's what she let us believe for two months. But I didn't wanna do anything until it was completely confirmed. And then when they told us that he was still viable it was literally the best thing.’
As someone who thought that being a mother was completely off the table, she has a deep and sometimes painful understanding of how special it is, even the moments others dread.
‘Everyone tells you: wait for the sleepless nights and wait until they're crying. But within those sleepless nights, you also got the fact they're about to look up at you and smile for the next ten minutes. And it's actually the most wholesome thing ever. You're literally the only one they're looking for. You're the one they rely on, the one that they need, and the only one that can sort of help them. They completely and utterly trust you and I find that really humbling.’
Of course, having a newborn means that life has slowed down a little bit, although the cycles of the farm keep turning around her. Her farm covers ‘beef, sheep, and arable’, which means they’re busy pretty much all year round.
‘We produce lamb and it goes to slaughter. I should say made into meat, shouldn't I? And beef the same. We do beef fattening and we also have a breeding herd of about thirty, which is slowly building, but we're trying to keep it at thirty because it's more manageable. And then we grow corn so we're self-sufficient. We also have like rape seed oil that we grow, but we don't allow it to fully develop because we then fatten the lambs on that.’
It’s often forgotten that farms work as an ecosystem, not something totally artificial. Each part supports the other parts in a way that supports nature, rather than disrupting it.
‘Even when it comes to our hedges, we're thinking about the wildlife all the time, from rabbits being able to burrow in the hedges to foxes being able to hide. We actually leave about a two foot gap either side of our hedges when planting crops. It's one of those things that people don't realise when they're on about this rewilding stuff, I think. Ed Sheeran raised it quite a lot a few years ago. He really tried promoting it. But actually, agriculture does that too.’
One of the main issues that farms face, especially since Britain chose to leave the EU in 2016, is a lack of funding. All this good work that they do, and the livelihoods of generations of farmers, it might all crumble if they stop receiving any kind of support.
‘The government is on about cutting subsidies and grants, and a lot of farms really rely on them. So at the moment they do grants for planting a field of wild bird seed or something. You'll get paid for that. And it's quite good pay compared to the rest of agriculture, which still isn't as much as what it should be.
'Unfortunately, I think most of British agriculture will see a downside to Brexit, when we were promised so much.’
Finally, I ask The Farmer for a skill she’s still working on. Despite everything she’s just shared with me about her miraculous ability to keep babies alive, both animals and humans, she confides in me that she has a habit of killing her houseplants.
‘So far I think it’s like a 50% survival rate.’