Shepherdess balances farming with parenting in lockdowns and icy weather
- Credit: Danielle Booden
An enterprising Norfolk shepherdess has explained how a £5,000 farming award has helped her continue doing her vital job throughout coronavirus lockdowns and extreme weather.
Becky Dixon was the 2019 winner of the Chris Lewis Award, a biennial prize which is now open again for applications from young Norfolk livestock farmers keen to develop their businesses.
The 29-year-old lives in North Walsham and keeps a growing flock of 500 of her own sheep at Honingham, west of Norwich, while working with 6,000 sheep for other owners across the county.
She invested the prize money in a trailer and a second-hand quad bike which, allied to her existing fencing equipment, has created a self-contained mobile handling service, not reliant on other people for equipment.
Amid all the challenges of the last year, she said this has given her the flexibility to balance her two essential jobs - helping provide food for the nation, and looking after her four-year-old daughter Evie.
"Now I am much more flexible, even with Covid and the little one I have been able to carry on working fairly normally," she said.
"A lot of my work in the winter involves sheep that come down from the north or Leicestershire, to graze on root crops like turnips and radishes. I had the electric fencing equipment, but I couldn't use it without a quad bike. I was having to hire one before I got the award.
"Now I am self-contained rather than just being self-employed and coming in to use someone else's equipment, I can come in with the trailer, the quad bike, the fencing machine and the dogs and go to work whenever I need to. It gives me quite an advantage."
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The added flexibility has helped her care for Evie too.
"I often think how lucky we are that we could stop the quad bike for a little while and play in the snow and then do some more work," she said. "Especially at the moment, we are really lucky. She loves being involved in everything we are doing."
Miss Dixon said that she was "filled with pride to think that society is relying on you to feed them" during lockdown - and she has been stopped by walkers to express their surprise that she was also out doing her job during this week's freezing weather.
She encouraged other young farmers to apply for the 2021 Chris Lewis Award, which this year offers an increased prize of £6,000 to Norfolk livestock farmers aged 30 or under.
- The deadline for awards entries is March 1. For more details, contact Edward Stanton on firstname.lastname@example.org