Interview with a farmer: Lucy

With my new Zwartbles wool about to launch I thought I'd catch up with Lucy and get a farmer's perspective. 

  1. Could you tell me a little about what you do? I work in an office as my day job, but also have a flock of my own sheep as a hobby.

  2. How long have you and your family been farming? My dad has farmed all his life with a dairy herd and sheep. I helped on the farm when I was younger and really loved lambing time. We often had pet lambs. One that stands out was crackers, who acted more like a dog than a sheep.

  3. What made you chose the breeds you keep? I first saw Zwartbles at the Westmorland show and instantly they became my favourite sheep breed. They seemed really friendly and had such soft fleeces. I visted a couple of local families who had Zwartbles and then bought some of my own at an auction market. They have proved to be really friendly and enjoy being stroked and climbing on you. They are also naturally good mothers and have so far proved easy to lamb. They have good thick fleeces and are said to have lean meat, although I have never tried this myself.

  4. What do you enjoy most about your job? With sheep there is never a dull moment, but it is most satisfying when you can look at the sheep in the field all happily grazing or the lambs racing across the fields without a care in the world. It's nice to know they've had a good life.

  5. The least? Having to go outside in the wind and rain to feed the sheep, before going to the office. Taking the lambs off their mothers is quite traumatic, they make such a racket for days.

  6. What is your favourite time of year? Springtime. Because you can see the change in colours as everything turns green. Plus its the season for the lambs to be born.

  7. How do you see farming changing in the future? Farms are getting larger but fewer and it seems this will continue. But it would be great if the market for local food and products can continue.

  8. Wool – how has the price of wool changed in your lifetime? Was it different in your parents/grandparents day? Wool used to be profitable but now it seems sheep are just sheared as a necessity rather than to make money.

  9. Do you believe you get a fair deal from the Wool Board? The prices paid dont make it profitable for farmers. It would be better if the Wool Board could get a better price for the wool, as wool end products such as carpets and tweed are so expensive but the producers get such a small proportion of the profit.

  10. Do you/would you consider the quality of wool in your planning decisions? I think it is important to keep the fleeces as clean as possible and use minimum marker colours on the fleece, so as to keep as much of the fleece as usable as possible.

  11. What do you think of people like Northern Yarn, who take a clip and process independently? I think this is a great idea as it gives people a chance to know where the product is from and to buy wool that supports local farmers. It also produces a more interesting product that people may not be able to easily obtain elsewhere. It also helps people to buy real wool rather than synthetic products. It is better for the environment with less miles travelled to provide a product.

  12. What do you see as the future of British Wool, if anything? It would be great if consumers could learn more about wool and where it comes from, and start to appreciate local wools and their unique characteristics.  

Thank you Lucy for giving us an insight into your fascinating and highly skilled work.

Kate xxx