A teenage sheepdog handler from north Wales hopes to encourage others into farming as she prepares to become one of Britain’s youngest farmers. Erin Fflur McNaught, 17, will take over Pandy Farm, her family’s 250-acre beef and sheep holding at Rhos-y-Gwaliau, when her grandfather retires next year. The teenager, who has also successfully bred two litters of her dogs, wants to inspire other young people and explained that “it would be nice to see more females as well”.
Last autumn Erin became one of the first women to win the One Man and His Dog trophy while competing against the best shepherds in the UK. “I feel there is no difference at all being a man or a woman farming”, she said. “I do sometimes feel I have to prove I’m capable of doing things. People don’t expect me to be able to drive a tractor, but it is something I have always done.”
“It would be nice to see more females as well.”
She fears that in these “uncertain times”, some people could be deterred from going into the industry. “It could put people off. It is hard work, emotionally and physically, and you have to be passionate about it. But it’s very rewarding and it’s an important job.” Erin has been helping with the farm for as long as she can remember and is told that the first word she ever said was “mare”.
She will take over the farm after turning 18 and completing her A levels next year. The farm will “come first” and she is already considering her options, including an agricultural degree to expand her knowledge base. “We’ve rented a lot of land out so I’m hoping that by next summer we will take the land back and farm it ourselves,” she said. “I’d like to increase our numbers of sheep and cattle too and go from there.”
Erin is told that the first word she ever said was “mare.”
Simon Gadd, the NFU’s next generation forum chairman, said there were still a number of challenges facing young people who wanted to become farmers. He said: “The most difficult thing is getting hold of finance. With agricultural land being so expensive to buy, it’s hard to get into.
“We’re about 10,000 people short in the industry and it’s a fantastic time to come into it because people are realising the value of high-quality food at the moment and knowing where it comes from.” He added that the requirements for technical skills in modern farming meant that it was a great time for young people to join.
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