When I made the decision to bring back the Follow a Farmer blogs as a regular series, I knew exactly who I wanted to feature first.
Ethan really is an inspirational young lad. Having followed his journey through Twitter for the last year or so, it’s been a real pleasure to see him develop and achieve so much in such a short time. He’s so passionate and knowledgable, it’s very easy to forget he’s still only 16 years old!
I really enjoyed chatting to Ethan and getting to know him a bit better, and I’m sure you’ll agree some of the answers he gives really belie his age. I just hope you enjoy reading this interview half as much as I enjoyed putting it together!
James: What’s your farming background?
Ethan Kinney: None. I’m not from a farming background. I’ve started from scratch, with no previous knowledge.
J: You’re from The Wirral, a fairly built up area and definitely not your traditional farming heartland. How did you get in to farming?
E: My high school had a smallholding with a few sheep and chickens. I loved working with sheep so took it upon myself to see what big scale farming was like and went to Hannah (Jackson, Red Shepherdess) for two weeks!
J: How did you meet Hannah? Was it through school?
E: Through Twitter but she did come into the school once or twice.
J: Has twitter played a big part in getting you started in farming?
E: Definitely! It’s given me many contacts and friends for the future
J: You’ve just started at Reaseheath college. What are you studying and what do you hope to get out of your time there?
E: I’m currently studying Level 2 diploma in Agriculture and hope to expand my knowledge of the sheep industry so I can then become a shepherd… That’s what Reaseheath is teaching me.
J: So a career as a shepherd beckons! What first got you in to sheep? Was it working with them at school?
E: Yeah, I was attracted to sheep more and I just love working with them. They can be very peaceful… when they want to be!
J: They are definitely the Marmite of the farming world! What do you enjoy most about working with sheep?
E: Just shepherding in general and watching them grow from lambs to future flocks. Lambing I also absolutely LOVE! Bringing new life into the world is the most surreal feeling in the world. Makes everything so special.
J: Are there any breeds in particular that you’ve enjoyed working with so far?
E: Herdwicks, Mules and Swaledales! They’re definitely my favourite breeds by far!
J: I’m guessing shepherding Herdwicks and Swales up on the fells is the dream job then?
E: Yeah and maybe have a small flock of Mules myself as I was really impressed with them during lambing time. After college, possibly middle of next year, I will get my own collie to be my future working dog.
J: Do you enjoy working with dogs?
E: Yeah I feel an absolute connection when working with them and that in itself is also magical but the bond is unbreakable. I had Bow but had to sell her because things didn’t work out at my high school but having her, we had a little bond going and I loved it! I will be buying one of her pups when she’s ready for breeding!
J: You’re right. There’s something so special about that bond between a shepherd and his dogs. I’d be lost without mine! They’re great company too. Shepherding can be a very lonely job, but you’re never truly alone when you’re working with your best friend
E: Absolutely! I’d talk to mine and everything!
J: I’ve touched on loneliness there, and farming is a job that is full of challenges and struggles. What do you think the biggest challenge has been so far for you?
E: Getting known and gaining experience. The getting known for now is on twitter and for people to see what I do and who I am that’s for now. In the future that will change to be more my stockmanship as that is very important in this industry too. The getting experience is hard for all I think because sheep farmers aren’t always busy and some don’t like to be bothered but Han helps me out, and when I’m not booked up I always make a weekend trip up to my little second family up there every half term.
J: You’re doing a great job so far on social media of showing you’re keen to gain more experience and want to learn. You’ve also done some writing for Farmland Magazine too? Do you enjoy writing and getting your story out there?
E: Thanks James! Yeah the Farmland magazine has been a strange one. They were the very first to want to know my story so to me that is an accomplishment itself. And David who’s in charge is a smashing guy. He’s really helped me show people here at home what it’s all really about and it’s fantastic. It’s also given me a lot of courage too. I recently emailed all my local Primary schools to ask if there was a chance if I could come in for the afternoon one day and have a PowerPoint ready to show with video and pictures what it’s about and that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. I have just today had the Liverpool Echo wanting to know my journey too. So it’s all great.
J: As a new entrant, especially coming from an area where you’re very unlikely to encounter a farmer, do you think it’s important that kids like you have people to look up to and can see that there is a way in to this industry?
E: I think that it’s very important because these legends of farmers won’t be here for ever and their children might not want to become farmers, so the fact that your dad or mum or uncle isn’t one doesn’t mean you can’t be. However I think Twitter is helpful for communicating about these type of things and find someone you can look up to. It’s hard with getting visits to the school in because most of these teachers are city people and don’t understand the importance of it themselves so I think I could help them too.
J: you’re a great example that it can be done. It’s fantastic that you’re doing your bit to try to inspire the next generation again. Who’ve been your biggest farming inspirations?
E: Well definitely Hannah! And James Rebanks because I’ve done some work for him for the day and he’s got something special! I would say Sophie (Barnes) too! I think it’s amazing what she’s done and when I’m older I would love to visit New Zealand because it looks amazing
J: What has 2017 got in store for you?
E: I think more experience, more learning… and just enjoying my half terms off with the Jacksons and do some sheep farming with them! . I’ll have the Sainsbury’s visits to supermarkets and their farms with college too.
J: Any final words?
E: I’d like to promote Farmland magazine! It’s fantastic, I think lots of other people will learn a few things by giving that a read. And just for everyone to support each other and stick together in this industry. That is what helps us thrive.