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Young Farmer Focus: Jessica Armitage – ‘It is time we start shouting about how great our industry is’

Jessica Armitage, 25, from Oakham, Rutland, is a herdswoman at Keythorpe Organic Farms and is the owner and founder of PrOganic, a milk processing business.

Growing up

 

I have always lived on a farm, so dairy is in my blood. Having said this, throughout my school years I had no intention in joining the agricultural industry.

 

It was not until I got to the University of Reading, where I took a BA in business and management that my passion for agriculture grew 100-fold.

 

Having joined the ‘agrics society’, where all we talked about was farming, and living and studying with with non-farming folk, I became agriculture’s biggest advocate.

 

I simply could not comprehend how far removed the UK population is to our industry. Due to this regenerated passion, I went to Australia and New Zealand in my third year of study to work for agribusinesses which were adding value.

 

Family business

 

After leaving university I came home to the family business into the role of youngstock manager, where I stayed for two years.

 

While in this job I was lucky enough to look after more than 1,000 calves, some of which are now calving in for the first time. It is so great to see your heifers calve when you were there at their birth.

 

No other industry can boast that feeling.


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Herdswoman

 

In May 2019, I took on the role of herdswoman at Glebe Farm, Oakham.

 

This was a big step for me and I will hold my hands up and sat it was daunting.

 

Wake-up calls at 3:15am, breeding season stresses, grassland management and the rest was a lot to take in, especially when I was between secretary and chairman roles at my Young Farmers’ Club.

 

I like to keep busy.

 

PrOganic

 

In August last year, I launched PrOganic. I pasteurise the organic milk we produce on-farm and sell it through vending machines.

 

My first vending machine went into Gates Garden Centre and Farm Shop, based two miles away from the farm, which is doing really well. Six months in, I was approached by the Eco Village in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, and I launched my second machine last February.

 

Both sites have held sales pretty well through these strange Covid-19 times. I am continuously looking for new ways to expand my business, with new opportunities coming all the time.

 

My mum joined PrOganic last month, providing organic eggs.

 

My aim for PrOganic is to create a substantial brand which can be supported by what we are already doing on-farm – ‘keeping it real’.

 

Industry challenges

 

I prefer to see them as opportunities. This time of Covid-19 is a great example.

 

We need to act now while we are all in lockdown to educate the UK population on the importance of buying British and supporting local.

 

The UK has the best agricultural practices, climate and soils in the world and it is time we start shouting about how great our industry is.

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