It all started with a lamb.
Now you might be thinking I’m about to tell you all about that infamous Larry the lamb that had me leave my urban life on the Wirral, and head to the hills of Cumbria, but this isn’t about me, and this is a different but equally as impactful lamb.
This week I had the absolute pleasure and honour of helping a six-year-old boy lamb his first ever sheep.
It was a moment of pure joy, excitement and pride, for both of us.
As this young boy full of passion for sheep farming stepped up and gripped the lamb’s legs and pulled with all his might this huge lamb was welcomed into the world, and with it, was born a sense of confidence that you can only get from really pushing your boundaries and broadening your horizons.
It was a moment that almost brought me to tears, immediately there was a special spark in his eye, there was pride gushing out of his beaming smile, and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment in his voice, he proclaimed “I will never forget this lamb, my beautiful lamb”.
It has be one of the most powerful moments in a farming career to date, I felt beyond privileged to be part of this incredibly special moment, and it felt like this was a huge milestone in this little boy’s life.
When it comes to child development, research shows that one of the most crucial milestones in a child’s life occurs by the age of seven years old.
Those first seven years of life are the times to fill their days with as many experiences, environments and places as possible.
It is this vital time in a child’s life that begins to influence and shape them into their older self, as the Greek philosopher Aristotle once said “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man”.
It is this time that allows a child’s confidence to thrive and their aspirations to grow, and it gives them the curiosity to question.
We all have a responsibility as farmers to water these seeds of curiosity from children of all backgrounds, whether farming or not.
We have to engage and encourage the younger generation by providing these life changing and impactful opportunities like birthing a ewe, collecting eggs from chickens and milking a cow etc, not just to future proof our industry with keen young farmers or to gain more support to back British farming, but to help children become strong, confident and aspirational in all walks of life.
Our future generations must feel they have the tools to take on the world, and we are the ones who give them these tools, through experiences, guidance and encouragement.
I personally believe that as an industry we don’t have enough open doors or accessibility for young children to experience life on the farm, and I say that as a self proclaimed “townie” who never thought that “farmer” was a job I could do growing up.
Nature, animals and the outdoors not only help children experience the wider world, but more importantly it helps them get to know and explore themselves so much more.
I feel such an urge and responsibility personally to do absolutely everything I can to nurture those little sparks of interest into bigger, brighter flames.
If it was physically possible I would love to give every single child the opportunity to help welcome new life into this world, although being realistic this isn’t massively achievable, especially given I personally only have 250 ewes.
On reflection, a big driver of my social media usage is to give as many people a virtual insight into these experiences as it is the next best thing.
My burning question is, what can we do as an industry to provide more opportunities for young children to experience life on the farm?
Could we all do a little more to slow down and give children more time, to explain “why”, and to really show them?
Could we all make a collective commitment to invest more time and responsibility in making these experiences more accessible?
I’d love to think we could.