Instagramming shepherdess wins £6,000 farming prize
- Credit: Bethany Atkinson
An Instagramming Norfolk shepherdess who launched her farming business from scratch during lockdown has won a £6,000 industry award.
The biennial Chris Lewis Award is presented in memory of its namesake, a respected livestock farmer who was known for supporting young people.
At an event at Park Farm in Snettisham, Mr Lewis' widow Jane presented the 2021 award to Bethany Atkinson, from Stokesby, near Acle.
The 26-year-old is a contract shepherd with her own 60-strong Mule flock, who will use the prize money to buy more animals and a handling unit to help her manage her sheep, and those of her customers.
Although not from an agricultural background, she "fell in love" with farming in 2018 after being asked to help out with lambing at a mid-Norfolk farm.
She is also a talented photographer, but made the decision to start her livestock venture in May last year, when the lockdown took a toll on her photography work.
Now, she uses her creative skills to document her farming career through social media posts as @shepherdess_beth on Instagram.
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"I am absolutely loving it," she said. "The places I get to work are just beautiful. I work in parklands most days and I look around and think how lucky I am.
"I still do the photography, and I do a lot of equine portraits now. I use social media as a way of carrying on these two businesses together.
"I am documenting my journey with my sheep, and I have had a lot of people asking how I got into it.
"I am not from a farming background at all. I went to a farm for a week to help out lambing but I stayed for three months, I just fell in love with it."
Miss Atkinson rents grazing land in Wymondham and said the prize money will pay for vital handling equipment to help her flock expand when more land becomes available.
"I would love to get up to 500 sheep, but I am taking it slow and steady - as I get the grazing land I will expand," she said.
The award is funded by the Norfolk Farmers Trust.
The runner up was Izzi Rainey, who manages her family’s Highland and Lincoln Red beef cattle at Foulsham near Fakenham, as well as running a design business. The other two finalists were Fred Calver and Alice Christian.