Farming feature: I suddenly thought: ‘Yes, I’m going to try it’
- Credit: Archant
Lotty Barbour took over the running of the family farm at Cratfield, near Halesworth, following the untimely death of her father 13 years ago.
The late William Barbour had three daughters and no sons, and the girls grew up knowing their way around the farm.
Lotty, 48, took over the day-to-day management of the business, Barbour Farms Ltd, based at Manor Farm. One sister, Vicky Lockie, became a silent partner in the arable business, while the other, Sara Saunders, is a farm secretary.
“We are farming about 350 acres - we are not enormous,” says Lotty. “We are growing winter wheat, oilseed rape and some winter barley and have a a small amount of grass as well.”
On the livestock side, she rears around 250 calves a year on a contract basis and she keeps a small flock of Jacobs sheep.
She sells the beef under her own Cratfield Beef label. Her partner, James Scoones, works on his own farm, but there is some crossover. Lotty grew up on the family farm in Bedfordshire until her father bought the farm in Suffolk in 1989 and she moved there at the age of 20. She went to agricultural college in Leicestershire and trained as an agricultural secretary.
“I guess somewhere along the line I don’t think I was ever destined just to be a secretary - I like the outdoors too much and I like the farm too much.”
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She managed Easton Farm Park for about 10 years. She admits that while she’ll do her office work, she has “office-phobia” and would much rather be outside. If she could find an excuse to be out of the office she would “in a flash”.
“I had worked in agricultural-related industry and had always been interested in farming. I always wanted to go into farming. Then something suddenly happens and you have an opportunity, and that’s what happened.”
With the death of her father: “I suddenly thought: ‘Yes, I’m going to try it. I used to help him but I was not working alongside him or anything like that. It wasn’t on a day-to-day basis,” she says.
“I thought to start with I knew quite a lot of things, but when I got into it I realised I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. I still learn now. That’s what keeps it all going.”
However, she doesn’t think that being female has held her back.
“I supposed yes, if I had been a boy, I would not have done farm secretarial but, then again, having done that in the past it helps you along with the business side of things,” she says.
“Physically it can be tiring at certain times of the year. You can’t say it isn’t. You have to try and get some help in as and when you need it. You just have to know what your limitations are. I’m not a feminist - you have got to be flexible.”
Lotty would like to see more girls - and young people generally - entering the sector, but she has very occasionally come across negative attitudes from some men.
“There are girls out there quite often working with livestock, maybe one or two doing a little on the arable. I do it because that’s the type of person I am, because I’m happy to get out and I’m happy to do that. I know of girls out there who are more than happy to get out there on a sprayer or look after stock.
“We are still a minority in a man’s world. You just decide you are going to get on with it. If you let it bother you you would not get anywhere. If you go to a farming meeting or a course, you know there are only going to be four or five or three or four females and the rest males.”
But she doesn’t regret her choice “in any way”, she says.
“As often is said, it’s more than a job.”