I’m Ian Lobb, a farmer from St Ewe in Cornwall, where I work with my two brothers to run the farm and our farm shop. We started the shop because we weren’t making any money from farming. My brothers and I got together, and decided we’d build our own shop to sell local meat, veg and other produce.
We do a great deal to support local suppliers, and our business is as low petrol and as low carbon as we can make it. We grow our own meat and vegetables and sell them in the shop, so we offer a local produce service to local people. We look after all the land and pastures on our farm, which encourages biodiversity. The way we farm conserves the natural environment in our little corner of Cornwall.
I love sharing my passion for what I do with the school children that come and do educational visits.
Tell us about your job – where do you work and what do you do?
I am a farmer from St Ewe in Cornwall. I work with my two brothers, Terry and Richard, to run the farm and our farm shop.
What inspired you to do what you do? How did you get into it, did you have a plan?
We started the farm shop because we had no choice; we weren’t making any money from farming - in fact, at one point, a field that we rented to Heligan Gardens each year as a car park was earning us more money. So, my brothers and I got together to discuss new ideas. We decided that we couldn’t compete with supermarket prices for meat, so instead we’d build our own shop and do it ourselves.
As for farming, I’ve been farming all my life. I sleep in the very room I was born in - the same room that my great-grandfather was born in. Farming is in my family and when I left school I just got on with it. I learned everything from my father. I did day release at college, but I feel that the first-hand experience gained on the farm and all I learned from my dad has made me the farmer I am today.
Why is your job meaningful? Both to you personally, and in how it benefits the wider world in terms of climate change and other environmental challenges.
To me, farming is a way of life, it is my life, it means a great deal to me. I see farmers as the guardians of the countryside. Everything we do is about the environment, working with mother nature and living off the land.
We do a great deal to support local suppliers, and our business is as low petrol and as low carbon as we can make it. We grow our own meat and vegetables and sell them in our shop, so we offer a local produce service to local people. We look after all the land and pastures on our farm, which encourages biodiversity. The way we farm conserves the natural environment in our little corner of Cornwall.
Many jobs in this sector are very new, how long has your job existed?
As far as I am concerned, farmers have existed since time began - ever since we started animal husbanding and learning how to grow crops!
What personal qualities do you think have got you where you are today?
To be a farmer, you’ve got to be incredibly hard working. You’ve also got to love what you do, because it’s hard work for very little money. Staying positive even in the face of really tough times helps, as well as allowing yourself to think out of the box; don’t be afraid to diversify, have ideas and work to make them reality. Our business really is a family business, I could not do what I do without my brothers, their wives and our children; family is important, and valuing what you’ve got within your family is important too.
What are the essential skills for your job?
I am a jack of all trades and master of some! To run a farm, you need to be prepared for anything and everything - I am a farmer, sometimes a vet, I care for animals, I mend gates, build walls, drive tractors and operate machinery, I do the accounts, I am a mechanic and mend equipment when it goes wrong, I’ve had to learn secretarial and admin skills, and recently I’ve been doing a lot of PR, marketing and education for the farm tours that we run! We’ve won loads of awards for both our farm and our products. No day is the same; you’ve got to be adaptable and flexible to survive in farming in the UK.
What qualifications do you have? Are these typical for people in your role?
All my training and husbandry for the farm was learned from my father; it’s all been learned on the job. With the shop, we’ve made it up as we’ve gone along, but we had a lot of support from friends and organisations who had experience of fundraising and thought the idea was good. As a result, we realised we had no choice and just got on with it.
For farming, these days you can train and get qualifications at agricultural college but it is not always necessary; experience, hard work and learning on the job are just as valuable.
What do you think most helped you get where you are now?
I got where I am today by spending an entire lifetime living on the farm, watching and learning from my father.
Please describe a typical working day
I live on the farm, so my working day starts at 7am and finishes at about 7pm - I start work the minute I leave the front door.
I work half the time as a shopkeeper and half the time as a farmer - and when I’m in the shop my brothers are on the farm. No day is the same. We look after our animals, grow crops and vegetables, and make sure the farmland and buildings are taken care of. We also run the shop, where we stock all kinds of local veg and products, and all the meat we sell is our own. It’s non-stop and full of variety.
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?
I love working and living where I do, I know I am lucky, I love being in Cornwall. I also love sharing my passion for what I do, and sharing the farm and how we work, with the school children that come and do educational visits.
Time management and things like the BSE crisis are stressful; I watched the price of my product drop overnight.
What kind of people do you meet through your work or do you work alone?
When I was a farmer all I met was sheep and cows, but now I meet all kinds of new customers, and I love hearing them enthuse about our meat and what we’ve created with the farm shop.
Do you feel well paid for what you do, or is it not about the money?
Farming does not pay well, at one point we earned less than the minimum wage, but the shop does well so we get by.