Cumbria shepherdess breaking down misconceptions says ‘farmers aren’t just grumpy men with beards’

A Cumbrian shepherdess has spoken out battling “many misconceptions and stereotypes” and said how her job is “very fulfilling.”

Hannah Jackson, who now lives in Cumbria, was born and raised in Wirral, but always knew she wanted to work with animals. During a trip to the Lake District, she saw a lamb being born and made the decision she wanted to be a farmer.

For outsiders who don’t know much about the profession, the job may seem “non-stop” but according to Hannah, there is a huge variety which is very flexible. Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, she said: “times are changing.”

READ MORE:Dramatic footage shows aftermath after police car flips and crashes through garden wall in Workington

She said: “When I first started, people asked if my dad was a farmer, they never thought I was a farmer in my own right, but times are changing and people understand that anyone can be a farmer if they want to. It redefines those stereotypes, farming is my passion, being a farmer isn’t just a grumpy man with a beard.

“At the beginning it was different, there were a lot of stereotypes to overcome, I was a red-head, female and Scouse. I walked in naïve thinking I’d be accepted straight away but on the whole the industry understands we need people from the outside, that’s on a huge shift.

“People on the outside, it’s hard for them to understand that you don’t need to be brought up on a farm to be a farmer, it’s about changing those misconceptions. I didn’t know I could just become a farmer but now, my passion is to be a role model to others.

She is known as the Red Shepherdess
She is known as the Red Shepherdess
(Image: Hannah Jackson)

“One thing I was missing was a role model. You can come from wherever and there is a space for you if you’re willing to try.”

The day-to-day for Hannah varies, but at some of her busiest times, lambing season, she can be up “at the crack of dawn” and can see more than 1,000 sheep born over several weeks.

The 29-year-old, who now lives in Cumbria, said: “There are misconceptions we work every hour of every day but that’s not the case, you can be flexible with the job. The best thing is that it varies. One day I’m a shepherdess, another a vet or an engineer or electrician. I never realised how much my skills would expand. I’ve learnt so much.

“Bringing new life into the world got me into farming and that never gets old, and working with dogs and going from the hustle and bustle of city life to being one with nature.”

New research released by McDonald’s revealed that 60% of young people aren’t considering a career in agriculture due to a lack of relatable role models and negative perceptions about careers in the industry. Around 75% of farmers say there is a significant skills shortage in the industry.

Research has shown that young people are now seeing farming as an attractive or viable choice. More than 68% of young people think a career in farming won’t provide them with job satisfaction and 70% don’t believe they have the skills required to succeed.

It was during a trip to the Lake District Hannah made the decision to become a farmer
It was during a trip to the Lake District Hannah made the decision to become a farmer
(Image: Hannah Jackson)

But Hannah said more needs to be done to address this. She said: “You don’t have the skills when you start out, but you learn as you go. People don’t think there is job satisfaction but I love waking up every morning and cracking on.

“The flexibility it brings too, we really need to open up the conversation about farming and get people to take a leap of faith. People don’t realise everything you end up doing. We do so much with science, vets, accountancy, the business side of things. It really is a super broad industry, it’s not just hands on, it’s very exciting. We do need to bring more opportunities, trying to find a breakthrough is hard but McDonalds are taking that initiative to open doors and give people that experience.”

McDonalds is launching a new campaign to increase diversity within the industry as a way of marking 10 years of its Progressive Young Farmer programme. It will challenge the misconceptions young people hold about careers in food and farming and call on the industry to do more to diversify its talent pool.

Hannah added: “My life has took turns I didn’t expect but it’s beautiful. Life is so different now, I appreciate everything a lot more and I naturally found my place.

“The pandemic made me feel super lucky for the job and life I have, we kept going and it was good to be outside and more people took an interest in where their food came from so it was a good shift.”

Joe Bramall, from Waverton Chester, currently on placement with OSI said: “On my PYF placement I’ve been able to learn so much about the variety of roles within the farming industry. It’s been great to see the whole food supply chain that’s behind everything from Big Macs to Fries, from farm to front counter – there’s so many different opportunities in farming that a lot of people aren’t aware of. I’d recommend McDonald’s PYF programme to any ambitious young person who isn’t sure what they want to do next.”

READ NEXT:

Lancs Live – Cumbria