Communication key to healthy family business, says young farmer

Lucy McVeigh, livestock manager at Kenton Hall Estate, near Debenham.

Lucy McVeigh, livestock manager at Kenton Hall Estate, near Debenham. - Credit: Archant

A lively debate on how families can destroy farming businesses has helped a young female farmer to appreciate how supportive her parents have been, she said.

Lucy McVeigh, livestock manager at Kenton Hall Estate, near Debenham.

Lucy McVeigh, livestock manager at Kenton Hall Estate, near Debenham. - Credit: Archant

Lucy McVeigh, of Kenton Hall Estate, near Debenham, voted against a motion in a debate at the Oxford Union that “this house believes the biggest threat to the family farm is the family itself”, but said she was in the minority, and it was eye-opening to hear some of the contributions.

“One female delegate took to the floor to tell the floor that her two brothers had fallen out over their family farm and had spent thousands building a fence to split the farm in half, even through a building. It made me really appreciate my own situation,” said Lucy, who was awarded an under 30s scholarship grant to attend last month’s Oxford Farming Conference,

Lucy, 22, is one of four children. Alice, 20, is a teacher living in Malaysia, while Emily, 26, runs three businesses on the farm - a wedding venue, glamping site and cookery school - and is also in charge of marketing, PR and the Kenton Hall website. Tom, 20, is studying agri-business at Reading University, but helps out on the farm at weekends.

Lucy, who manages the livestock, harvest team, farm apprentice Kieran, the butchery operation and sales of meat.


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Together, the three children who have opted to remain on the farm manage a burger trailer, farm shop and social media marketing. “Tom and I are the 13th generation of farming McVeighs,” she said.

Lucy’s parents, David and Sharon, bought the farm 30 years ago having farmed in the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.

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David oversees the management of the farm, a waste business called Wasteology and an engineering workshop.

“People always ask me if we all get on and the simple answer is: ‘Yes, brilliantly well,’” she said.

“I think this is down to lots of communication and understanding what’s going to happen in the future. The topic of succession was introduced to us at a young age when dad sat us down and asked how we would like to move forward or if we had an interest in the farm. I was 15 at the time and knew then that I wanted to keep the farm in the family. Having this talk at such a young age allowed Emily, Tom and I to develop our own businesses from the farm with his support.”

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