That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Jess Clague in this week’s women in ag segment. The 27-year-old tells us about her father, who inspired her career path, her non-farming background, a stint in New Zealand and inspiring others.
“My name is Jess Clague; I am 27, and I live on the Isle of Man.
I am not from a farming family, and here I am, 12 years into agriculture and still succeeding!
My interest in farming came from my father, who was an agricultural contractor until I was 6-years-old before turning to building as a trade.
Dad was, and still is, my hero, shearing sheep, milking cows. and driving the Zetor with the hedge trimmer!
My earliest memories are of watching dad pour the treacle into the sheep tubs and then dunking his dirty paw in and promptly into my mouth!
I must have been 3 or 4, and it was my reward for chasing the sheep in!
I owe a lot to him for never letting me away with ‘she’s a girl, she cannot do that’.
Whilst I was at school, I was told that “women cannot be farmers; you will never find a job”.
I took that straight to my dad, and he said you can be anything you want to be, my girl and do not forget it!
And with that, he found me a weekend job feeding calves on a local dairy farm.
I just loved being outdoors with animals, and it is still no different! At 17, I approached the farm that my dad first worked on, and I got a JOB!
I was the happiest, proudest pig/sheep/beef farmer on the North of the Island. I had little to offer other than enthusiasm and a mindset of hard graft.
So, if anyone out there thinks they cannot get a job, I really think there is a lot to be said if someone shows up.
It was a special place to start my farming journey working for the man my dad once worked alongside.
Dairy and Young Farmers
Fast forward a few years, and I found my passion, dairy. I was working Island wide relief milking for a chunk of our dairy farmers.
They showed me the way of life that has made me who I am today. There is an affinity I just cannot explain between myself and cows.
They are just the most fascinating, curious, gentle creatures I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I joined Young Farmers, met lots of people and from there, I was never short of any work.
It gave me the confidence to speak to new people.
I became secretary for our local club within my first year. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, and for that, I am grateful.
You never know how far you can jump unless you really need to!
In October 2017, I jumped on a one-way flight to New Zealand with no idea when I would return, the scariest moment of my life.
I had been on one family holiday when I was six and could probably count on both hands the number of times I had left the Isle of Man.
I loved every minute and would highly recommend it to anyone.
Do not push back your ambitions or dreams; let them carry you anywhere in the world.
I learnt new ways of doing things, different ways of farming, milked lots of cows and as a bonus, spent six months in shorts!
I would not say it contributed any to my success at home, but it certainly helped me to know who I am as a person and gave me more confidence than I have ever had.
Returning home, I have had a successful career jumping up the ladder and forever learning new skills.
I may be a woman, but that does not limit me or my ability to do my job. I work predominantly with Men, and I have never once been questioned or doubted that I could do anything.
Previously, I drove for a farm digging spuds years ago, and the old boy questioned his son for hiring me.
After the fortnight was over, he turned to me and said, “Jess, I thought he was mad getting a girl in to drive, but you’re better than most men with that trailer!”
It was a true highlight and a memory that will stick with me for many years to come.
Farmers, in general, these days are very forward-thinking, even Manx ones. It is the older generation that I worried about most.
It pushed me, even more, to show what I am worth, and to be honest, some of my closest friends are farmers in their 70s.
My passion is to inspire young people to be anything they aspire to and show that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it!
Jump for your dream
I got in touch to write this article because I would love to give people an insight into my journey, even if it means it gives one person the confidence to jump for their dream!
Farming for me is the same as anyone. We all do it because we love it. It is a way of life, and the farming community is like one big family.
The way our farmers have supported me over some of the most difficult years of my life proves to me I am in the right place. I am home.
Now to anyone who thinks they cannot, or they won’t have a chance, think of the 5’4 gay young farmer on the teeny tiny Island who has never once been told she cannot.
Get up, dress up, show up, and never give up, even if you have to stand on a bucket to reach.”
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