Inspired by his grandfather, teenager Jack Walton is soon to complete a 1,000-mile journey to 25 livestock marts around the country, in order to raise money for charity and work towards his dream of being an auctioneer. Danusia Osiowy reports.
Young auctioneer Jack Walton spent his sixweek summer holidays on the road. Not especially out of the ordinary you may think, as many students are off here, there and everywhere visiting different people and places.
But this 18-year-old is definitely an exception to the masses, after deciding to embark on a 1,000- mile journey to sell stock and visit 25 livestock auction marts from Dingwall to Truro, raising money by auctioneering one pen of lambs at as many marts as possible.
This he did with determination and gusto, and with sponsorship secured from a number of companies, he began on Tuesday, July 19 at Dingwall Mart in the Scottish Highlands and culminates at Truro market on September 7.
Auctioning off one pen of fat lambs during each stop, Jack worked with the marts to agree their commission from each sale would be donated to his two chosen charities – the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, and the RSABI (formerly known as the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution) both of which support farming communities in times of financial difficulties.
Spanning six weeks, he also set up exhibitions at the marts with information about the charities to share with fellow farmers and livestock dealers. Jack says: “For as long as I can remember I have loved attending livestock markets with my grandfather and I was always itching to have a go on the rostrum.
“The journey seemed like the perfect way to not only meet people within the industry and gain knowledge and experience, but to raise money for two excellent charities in the process.”
Inspired by his grandfather, renowned Suffolk breeder Michael Walton from Roseden Farm, Northumberland, Jack has been helping at Worcester Livestock Market, the county he is now based, for the last three years which has allowed him to learn the art of the trade.
“My grandfather has been my inspiration all my life.
From being a young boy going to market with him, to learning how to sort and grade sheep, he has always been there. “I had always thought about going around the markets as a bit of fun, but then I thought I could do it for charity. My plan was to raise about £50 at each market.”
Staying with friends, and friends of friends along the way, Jack has travelled on his own and enjoyed being taken around the different areas and shown different types of farming.
“I have visited very large farms to small farms, have loved travelling from market to market and have enjoyed my hedgerow farming.
“It is brilliant to see how the different farms are run and what different types of breeds are more common in certain areas than others.”
Documenting his trip, Jack has kept a daily blog explaining his experience in each of the marts alongside a raft of pictures to bring his story to life.
“I am very proud of my blog". It amazes me daily the amount of people who view it and where they are viewing it from. I have had views from as far as Kenya and the USA, to South Africa and New Zealand.
People have really got behind it and want to know how my progress is going.” Back on home turf, working closely with the farming community across the country has inevitably meant many memorable moments have been made throughout his trip, but when pressed he admits there are two which particularly stand out.
“One of the greatest moments Jack’s Journey was raising more than £500 in two markets; at Worcester Livestock Market, where I raised £542, and in Cirencester Livestock Market, where I raised £536.
“Another great memory was seeing the quality of stock at Wigton Livestock Market. Seeing fat lambs sold at 377p/kg and 360p/kg was fantastic. “Without a shadow of doubt the one thing which has surprised me through this is how willing the farming community have been to get behind my journey.
“I thought if I raised £50 in each market I would have been very pleased. To have raised an average of £190 in each market so far is amazing.
“I have been very lucky to have fat lambs, cull ewes and store lambs donated to the charities in three markets and I would like to thank the buyers for their very generous bidding and my sponsors.
” The livestock marts have also been hugely supportive and have facilitated Jack’s fundraising and experience of auctioneering wherever possible. “So far in every market I have visited I have had a great response.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially when I am only 18 years old.
"I thought if I raised £50 in each market I would have been very pleased. To have raised an average of £190 in each market so far is amazing"
“I didn’t think I would be able to auctioneer in so many markets. Before I visited each one I sent a letter asking permission to attend the sale with my charity bucket and asked if I could auctioneer.
“I had a mixed response but many changed their mind when it came down to it on the day, so I have been able to sell in more markets than I had originally intended.”
Back in the North East, Jack’s uncles are continuing the family’s farming legacy with one employed as the pedigree manager for Lilburn Estates, while the other farms about 1,500 breeding ewes and a small herd of pedigree Simmental cattle.
While Jack has some sheep of his own in Malvern, he is heading off to the Royal Agricultural University this month to study rural land management, with the aim of fulfilling his dream of becoming an auctioneer.
“I have learnt many different things about auctioneering over the past six weeks. From why some markets sell in pounds per head compared to others which sell in p/kg and how to draw lambs to maximise prices knowing the buyers will attend. “I have learned it is important to respect the buyers as in time, they will respect you.”