How little Ipswich girl’s dream of becoming sheep farmer became a reality

Iona Cooper who is studying farming at Easton and Otley College Picture: JOHN NICE

Iona Cooper who is studying farming at Easton and Otley College Picture: JOHN NICE - Credit: Archant

Iona Cooper was just a toddler when she decided she wanted to be a farmer.

"When I was three years old I made the decision that farming was for me. I came down the stairs and made the announcement to my mum," she says.

"When I was at primary school, Easton and Otley (College) came along to talk about their courses and this is when I knew that I would be going to the college. For me, I've always had a distinct plan of what I was going to do and so far it's worked out for me."

MORE - Dairy farmer says creating cheese business was 'hardest thing we've ever done in our lives'Now aged 17, Iona, who is from Ipswich, is on a level three farming course at Easton and Otley College. She is also training to be a sheep farmer and is in the process of gaining a work experience placement at a farm in Brightlingsea in Essex.

"We look at a range of different farming industries at college - but because I'm into sheep, I tend to focus on looking after their health and wellbeing on the Otley farm," she says.

The attraction for her was the way of life, she explains.

"It wasn't one specific thing - but I love the lifestyle. You wake up in the morning and you are surrounded by animals. You have freedom and it's peaceful and you are doing something amazing. You are providing people with food - so there is a purpose to it. Generally speaking, I don't like doing paperwork - however if the paperwork is farming related - that's a different story."

Her generation will be key to the future success of the industry.

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"We have full control of what is going to happen in the next 50 years and I'm sure lots will change during that time," she says. "But we will be part of that change and we can help shape the generation after us. It's insane thinking how quickly everything is changing and evolving.

"Family farms aren't always being handed on to the next generation. Other farms are being sold so more property can be built.

"It would be amazing to see more people going back into farming and see what a great job it is. It's the perfect job for me. I wish more people would see it that way.

"I think we need to bring enthusiasm and a range of skills. There are so many different aspects to farming.

"If people come on farms they would realise that there is so much to it. You are out in the countryside and every day is different. It's very rewarding."

When she graduates, Iona says she might go into shepherding or shearing, although she says she would love to try every aspect of farming.

"My main end goal is to have my own farm," she says.

Farming is "very rewarding", she adds. "I love this job and you feel good when you get home after a day at work. Every conversation I have always seems to come back to farming. It just shows you how much I care and love this job. I just hope that others will feel the same so we can keep the industry alive."

She doesn't know what impact Brexit might have on the industry, but feels if we work together, it will work out.

"You never know with Brexit. The industry may struggle with things like trade. Just look at sweetcorn for example. We get that imported and we import a lot of produce. Prices might go up so we would have to find a way of growing crops ourselves. I think we will manage if everyone pitches in. I'm hopeful everything will be OK."