Promoting careers in farming to the next generation

11 April 2024

Hannah Hetherington and Tom Martin in a field

Photograph: Tom Martin and Hannah Hetherington

A young Norfolk couple has spoken about their “fantastic” first 18 months of running and transforming a farm and plans to help inspire the next generation of farmers.

Hannah Hetherington and Tom Martin, both 24, have recently joined the NFU and want to support the organisation’s work to promote careers in farming to young people.

The couple took tenancy of the 115-acre Mendhams Farm in Outwell, between Downham Market and Wisbech, in October 2022.

They have been carrying out a transformation, with the arable fields resown as herbal leys under a Countryside Stewardship scheme and new hedges grown.

‘A lot to look forward to’

The grassland supports the farm’s flock of 250 ewes.

The farming system helps the environment, benefitting soils and boosting biodiversity, with wildlife including birds, bees, deer and butterflies thriving on the farm.

The farm is part of the Norfolk County Council Farms Estate, more than 6,800 hectares of publicly-owned agricultural land which brings revenue into the county council, while creating opportunities for farmers to expand or start new ventures.

It is really rewarding to be part of that process of giving life.”

NFU member Hannah Hetherington

Hannah said it had been a “fantastic experience so far”.

“We are really happy here. We love farming and the lifestyle that comes with it.

“We plan to stay here long term and to keep expanding the farm. There is a lot to look forward to.”

Hannah grew up in Gressenhall, near Dereham, and is not from a farming family.

She first became interested in farming after listening to a talk from Easton College when she was a pupil at Litcham High School.

She said: “I’ve always loved animals and the countryside. The thought of being surrounded by sheep all day really appealed to me.

“I originally wanted to be a midwife and with lambing it feels quite similar, in a way.

“It is really rewarding to be part of that process of giving life.”

Promoting farming to young people

Hannah completed a two-year diploma in agriculture at Easton College, where she met Tom.

Tom grew up on his family’s mixed farm in Hilgay and has wanted to be a farmer for as long as he can remember.

He said: “I was bothering my dad to let me work on the farm when I was a little kid and I haven’t looked back.

“It’s a great job. Being around the livestock is the most enjoyable part for me. It’s hard work but it’s really rewarding.”

The couple plan to support the NFU in promoting farming to young people.

A joint industry report published in autumn 2021 estimated there were 500,000 vacancies across the food and farming industry.

Labour availability is a significant barrier for many businesses across the sector and is restricting the opportunities for growth and often resulting in the contraction of food production.

I love being a farmer and it feels really rewarding to do our bit to help feed the nation.”

NFU member Hannah Hetherington

To help tackle this, the NFU runs several projects to promote farming careers to young people, including the Farmers for Schools Programme, where NFU farmer members visit schools across the country and the NFU Student and Young Farmer Ambassador Programme, which helps to give farmers aged 30 and under a strong voice in shaping the future of the agricultural industry.

More than 275,000 children witnessed NFU Education’s live lesson, which was streamed into schools across the country, as part of British Science Week last month.

In October, a live lesson for school children was held at No. 10 after being organised by the NFU with the Prime Minister’s wife, Akshata Murty.

Hannah said: “The NFU is doing some great work to promote farming to young people and we’re really keen to get involved. There are opportunities in farming for people from all backgrounds.

“I love being a farmer and it feels really rewarding to do our bit to help feed the nation.”

Ask us a question about this page

Once you have submitted your query someone from NFU CallFirst will contact you. If needed, your query will then be passed to the appropriate NFU policy team.

You have 0 characters remaining.

By completing the form with your details on this page, you are agreeing to have this information sent to the NFU for the purposes of contacting you regarding your enquiry. Please take time to read the NFU’s Privacy Policy if you require further information.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.