These days it is harder to follow this call, not for lack of desire but due to difficult barriers, high land prices, development, red tape and uncertainty. Some are brave and follow their dream, some look on and watch as the elder brother takes the farm, or due to failing fortunes the farm is sold. But in 1977 times were different, land wasn’t overpriced, in fact farms in certain parts of the country were cheap, as people left their land to pursue their fortunes, others came onto this land and started living their own dreams and creating their own fortunes.
Susan and Edward Nakienly were one such couple that followed their dream to farm, Susan, a city girl from Hull, always dreamed of the countryside, of working the land, she never wanted to ‘be a rambler…. I wanted to work with the land and to create something…. I wanted to…DO’.
In 1977 after working hard in corporate life to earn enough money to follow their dream, the couple bought their first farm, 50 acres, outside Llanybydder, after Edward had taken the opportunity to become partner in the local doctor surgery.
Passion and drive can get you a long way but you also need education, help and advice and Susan was lucky that this was all available. The kindness and advise offered by her new neighbours and friends, especially Walter was priceless, many books were read and they experimented and learnt a lot from trial and error. Susan took advantage of all the help offered by MAFF and the Agricultural Training Board, ‘you would just give them a call and someone would come out to see you and help, a great service!’
10 years of farming, saw their cattle and sheep numbers increase, land was being rented around the area but it was now time to move on and find a farm big enough for them to have everything in one place, so in 1989 they moved from Llanybydder across the valley to Talley and Blaen-Nant. The farm had everything they wanted, hill and low land and woodland, suitable for cattle and sheep. However, they soon realised that there were lots of badgers on the farm and so the cattle went, to avoid the threat of TB and the sheep increased up to 1200, Edward went part-time to help on the farm and with the 3 children.
‘Farming grounds you against the ups and down of life, it gave us independence and the ability to make our own (good & bad) decisions, it has taught us self-reliance and problem solving’.
Susans passion and drive has always come from her need to create something, to create a home, a work place and to develop a farming system that is suitable for her land, and the stock, something that is not set in stone as farming and the land change with the seasons.
Catherine really looked up to her mum and always loved being out on the farm and has learnt a lot from Susans farming knowledge, ‘get on with it’ attitude and work ethic. Being Inspired by the decisions and changes she has made to the farm system, building up stock numbers, being a great stock person all whilst bringing up a family.
Catherine herself a built her career in agriculture, focusing on sheep, working for Innovis, Farming Connect as a consultant and now coming home to help run the farm with her sister Helen.
Helen has a great passion for the countryside and the wildlife that lives in it, and is happy to come home, as a farmer, and is keen to be an inspiration to her 2 boys, to show them that women are farmers and for them to appreciate what it is to be a mother and a farmer.
Communication is key for success and never more so on a farm, where sometimes communication gets lost, where important conversations don’t happen, where ideas are sometimes dismissed as change can be seen as bad.
But thankfully the family has changed with tides and have had the important conversation of succession. Susan and Edward had never put pressure on the girls to come home to farm, but the 2 daughters are happy to be follow on with the passion and drive their parents have shown for their farm and to bring new ideas, of farming systems and diversification, with them.
‘We want the business to be more efficient and profitable, and we see diversification as a way of achieving this, whilst having the best stock and grazing system we can’.
‘My mother, who lived in a town, was a person of wild spaces, I was born for the hills, it is a place I feel calm and find peace’.
For Susan, this place of peace is on top of the hill, her place to find quiet, solitude and thinking time, it is wild and open and no one can find her, her time for looking, watching, listening and taking everything in on this part of Wales that she calls home.
Susan had never thought about being ‘a woman in farming’ before I asked the question, it had never dawned on her that it could be a problem as she has never been treated differently or seen as useless.
Being a woman should certainly not stop you going into farming, if you want to farm, male or female, you’ve just got to follow your heart. Farming isn’t about physical strength, it is about passion and drive for the land, livestock, wildlife and the place you call home. It is about having a viable business that inspires you.
The future is unknown but having the girls home will move the farm on, and give them the opportunity to make their own decisions. It will make them self-contained and give them independence to make the business and their lives what they wish.
There is no ‘Man Up’ in the Nakienly household, only ‘Woman Up’, for these independent, determined and self-sufficient women. Strength in self but more importantly strength in family, community and communication will see these women and their farm continue to thrive.
Conversation and thoughts with Susan, Catherine and Helen Nakienly, words and thoughts by Sian Mercer.
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