In our online series, I quit my job to farm, we look at people and families from across the country who decided they would leave their current lives and give it all up to farm. This time we speak to Andy Venables.
Location and scale of farm: 300 cow dairy herd plus young stock supplying the Co-Op, Macclesfield, Cheshire
What did you do before you farmed? I was commercial director for a digital marketing agency in Manchester for six years.
Did you have farming experience? Growing up on the dairy farm, it was hard not to be involved in the family business and even whilst working a busy working week in an office, I regularly milked at weekends.
When did you decide to quit? Sitting in traffic for up to three hours a day commuting into Manchester gives you plenty of thinking time! It was one particularly lovely sunny spring morning when I was sat bumper to bumper on the M60 that I asked myself, “what am I doing this for?!”
I had a wife, a young son and a family business that was at a cross roads. Although I had a good job, seeing more of my family and helping to grow the farming business was so much more important to me. So I decided to quit. That was my light bulb moment.
What was it about farming that you liked? Working in the Great British countryside! Aside from this, I was particularly excited by the level of technology that was emerging in the sector. I felt there was a massive opportunity for our farm business to utilise technology more to improve efficiencies on farm. I now work with Map Of Agriculture as a UK demo farm to help them develop new products to support farmers.
What has been your biggest obstacle? Helping to grow the dairy farming business whilst looking to diversify at the same time. The key to this was sitting down as a family to put together a five-year business plan. From this we allocated responsibilities and ensured we had enough resource to achieve our plan. I came back to the farm almost two years ago and since then we have grown the dairy business and started a new diversification business, Hillsgreen Marketing Consultants, an independent consultancy that specialises in helping to grow businesses in the rural sector.
Did you have support around you in the transition? I have a very supportive family and great friends that really helped in the early days. However, what I have found very valuable is being part of the Co-Op Farming Pioneers Scheme - a programme designed to help young farmers develop their business skills. I am very proud to be a Co-Op supplier and the two-year training scheme, which involves quite a rigorous selection process, has provided me with access to a group of likeminded individuals, opportunities to see successful rural businesses in action and attend practical business training workshops. It’s great to be part of an initiative that sees retailers genuinely investing in the future of British farming.
What do you love most now about your job? Variety! In farming things are never dull, there is always plenty to do and no day is ever the same. On top of running a rural marketing consultancy, I can be milking one day and sat with a client putting together a marketing plan together the next.
Do you ever regret your decision? No. I am now doing a job where I am helping rural businesses flourish, a family business grow and I get to spend more time with my young family.