A Norfolk couple hopes their “fantastic” first 18 months of running and transforming a farm can help inspire other young people to explore careers on the land.

Hannah Hetherington and Tom Martin, both 24, took on the tenancy of the 115-acre Mendhams Farm in Outwell, between Downham Market and Wisbech, in October 2022. 

They have transformed the land by planting new hedges and resowing former arable fields as herbal leys under a Countryside Stewardship scheme - creating grassland for the farm’s flock of 250 ewes, while benefiting the environment, soil health and wildlife.

The farm is part of the Norfolk County Farms estate, more than 6,800 hectares of publicly-owned land aimed at creating opportunities for farmers to expand or start new ventures.

Miss Hetherington said: “It’s been a fantastic experience so far. We love farming and the lifestyle that comes with it.

“We plan to stay here long term and to keep expanding the farm."

Miss Hetherington, who grew up in Gressenhall, near Dereham, is not from a farming family.

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

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

Miss Hetherington completed a two-year diploma in agriculture at Easton College, where she met Mr Martin - who grew up on his family’s mixed farm in Hilgay and has always wanted to be a farmer.

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

The couple recently joined the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and said they want to support the organisation’s work to promote agricultural careers to young people.

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

The NFU runs several projects to promote farming careers, including school visits under the Farmers For Schools Programme, and the NFU Student and Young Farmer Ambassador Programme.

And, last month, more than 275,000 children saw an NFU Education live lesson which was streamed into schools during British Science Week.

Miss Hetherington 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."