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‘When I was at school, it was seen as a bit weird for a girl to be interested in farming’

Pursuing a career in the agricultural sector was a natural progression for Chloe McFarland.

The 23-year-old hails from a mixed beef and sheep farm, consisting of Simmental and Limousin cattle, and Texel and Suffolk cross-breds in Gortin, Co. Tyrone.

“My earliest farming memory has to be out bottle-feeding pet lambs from a young age. I was all wrapped up just raring to get outside with my dad, mum, and younger sister, Roberta,” she told That’s Farming.

“I have to say this is where my love for farming and animals began. In later years, when I met my future husband, Graham, a poultry, and dairy farmer, I also got to experience two entirely different aspects of farming from those which I was brought up with.”

College

Chloe’s “love of all-things farming”, led her to Greenmount College of Agriculture, Antrim where she completed a three-year Foundation Degree in Agriculture and Rural Studies.

“I thoroughly enjoyed this course. We learnt so much, and we got to do a lot of practical work. Also, we did not just spend all day in a classroom. Furthermore, it was great to meet other young people with similar interests as myself.”

L.W. Surphlis

After finishing her studies in June 2018, Chloe secured a position in local agricultural merchants, L.W. Surphlis, in Drumlegagh, outside Newtownstewart.

Lowry Surphlis founded L.W. Surphlis & Son Ltd, a general merchants, in 1948. At that time, it was a grocery store and post office but has expanded to supply animal feeds, fertiliser, wood pellets, hardware and animal health products and is an agricultural shed manufacturer. Besides, it has 45 lorries providing general haulage, walking floors, tippers, flat trailers and blow trailers across the UK and Ireland.

Lowry’s son, Maurice, and his sons, Colin, and Adrian, oversee the running of the family business.

Day in the life

A typical day in Chloe’s working life at L.W. Surphlis begins at 9 am. She is based in the firm’s front office with two others, Helen and Vi. Their responsibilities involve taking orders for animal feeds, fertiliser, and all other general farm deliveries.

“It’s an extremely busy environment with the phone ringing constantly. We also enter dockets onto the computer charging down to the farmers’ accounts, for meal, fertiliser, steel, and other hardware collected in the yard, and we do cash sales too.”

“What I like the most about my position is that it’s so busy and there’s always something to do – you’ll never get bored!

“I enjoy the social aspect of the job also. It’s great meeting other farmers and hearing what they’re up to. You can even bring back ideas to your home farm.”

“What is most challenging about my job is that although it’s good to be busy all the time, it can get a bit overwhelming. For example, the phone is ringing beside you, and at the same time, a customer is standing at the desk waiting to be served.”

“You know in the back of your head there’s still about 50 dockets beside you to enter on the computer that you haven’t got a minute to even look at yet that day! But we get through it; we work together as a great team to get the work done.”

Future

Looking ahead to the future, the most significant change on the horizon is on Graham’s farm. They are removing two milking robots and installing a new milking parlour in the springtime.

“The robots were installed just before I met Graham, so I never got to milk through a parlour, so this will be a whole new experience for me! (wish me luck!)”

“I always knew I wanted to be involved in the agriculture sector. But of course, when I was at school, it was seen as a bit weird for a girl to be interested in farming.”

“Women in ag can do everything as well as men, especially now farming is much more mechanised. It is great that younger females are being encouraged to follow this career, whereas it used to be mostly males.”

“I’m so glad that I chose this career pathway. I am so lucky to have a job that I love in a sector that I feel so passionate about. I’m able to spend my weekends doing what I love, helping out on the farm: packing eggs or feeding calves.”

To share your story, email – catherina@thatsfarming.com

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