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Young Farmer Focus: James Miller, Okehampton, Devon

James Miller, 25, farms with his parents and wife Lisabeth near Hatherleigh, west Devon. He also runs his own contracting business, JRM Countryside Services.

James Miller, 25, farms with his parents and wife Lisabeth near Hatherleigh, west Devon. He also runs his own contracting business, JRM Countryside Services.

 

Farming: I have always enjoyed being outside in all elements, rather than being tucked up inside. Since a very young age I knew I wanted to be involved in an industry which did not require being behind an office desk, but I did not know it would be farming.

 

I guess it was the love of looking after animals on my mum and dad’s smallholding which showed me where I wanted to be in the future. After school I applied to the Royal Agricultural University and gained a degree in agricultural livestock production.

 

During this time I was lucky enough to win the Farmers Guardian Agricultural Student of the Year 2012 competition, which allowed me to go to New Zealand for a year to gain valuable experience and learn about the industry. It was one of the best years of my life, but when I returned it was not all plain sailing.

 

Challenges: The winter of 2012-13 was a frustrating time, applying for jobs all over the country and coming up short. In the end, I started to accept that I would need to start at the bottom and work up the career ladder.

 

However, after reviewing the 12ha (30-acre) family smallholding in Devon and looking at ways to improve it financially, a business idea came to life. With expanding farms realising a need for more machinery but constrained by cashflow, I decided that there was a market to provide agricultural contracting to smallholders, farmers and equestrian set-ups with often small and tricky fields. Two years later and just entering its third season, JRM Countryside Services is going from strength to strength.

 

It provides services such as boom spraying, weed wiping, flail mowing and fertilising, but with the use of a quad bike rather than a tractor. This niche has allowed the business to grow rapidly and expand into other markets. I never would have thought as a 14-year-old boy that in 10 years’ time I would be contracting. But I have not looked back since.

 

Future: This week has varied from weed wiping 6ha (16 acres) on one day, to planting potatoes on the family farm. No two days are the same. As well as the contracting, my wife and I are currently converting a barn into a house and have bought 8ha (20 acres) to allow us to start our very own farm. Current plans are to start a sheep dairy, but this may change depending on how the industry is after Brexit.

 

Most may be worried about the future following the vote, however I believe it is a fantastic opportunity for young farmers looking to get involved in the industry. It is not easy being a young farmer, but there is no place I would rather be.

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