I’m currently on a 13-month loan from the Rural Protection Agency (RPA) into the Future Farming and Countryside Protection (FFCP) Programme and Strategy team where I’m the Policy and Strategy lead. My background is as a farmer – having done my Agriculture degree at Reading University I took over running the small family farm which my parents owned and I grew up on in a very rural part of East Suffolk; I’ll come back to that shortly.
The most important bit of ‘me’ is that I’m a Christian, having become one at the age of 12. There are lots of misconceptions about what being a Christian is all about, but to me it’s all about relationships and the value that God attaches to having a relationship with me. It’s really practical and relevant to all aspects of life (as well of course as giving a sure and certain hope for what comes next after this life). I’m one of the leaders of a small Community Church in Suffolk which has a particular ministry with people (from across the country and some from overseas) who have contacted us seeking help with a range of common issues – anxiety, depression, family relationships, low self-worth or chronic fatigue to mention a few. It’s great to see people really helped, sometimes marriages saved, parent/child relationships rescued, paralysing anxiety understood and addressed. The fundamentals of this work are understanding ourselves, what really makes us tick. You’ve probably heard the saying that the biggest factor in how we perform in a work context is how we feel about ourselves – if nervous and fearful of making mistakes or not being ‘good enough’ that is very counterproductive. So too in relationships – what we feel deep down inside is the ‘engine room’ driving everything, positive or negative.
Secondly I am a ‘family man’ with my wife Claire and three great grown up children who are now settled into their careers (teacher, military pilot and police) in different parts of the country. We’re very proud of them and love to see them when we’re able – which we couldn’t for long periods during the pandemic as they don’t live locally. Coming back to my farming roots – after Uni I took over running the farm and developed beef cattle and agricultural contracting enterprises, also making and selling a lot of hay for horses, but during the 1990’s I was working harder and harder to only earn half a living. So we made the difficult decision to change direction, convert old farm buildings into Self Catering holiday cottages which my wife Claire could run at home while our young children were growing up, and I would seek employment off farm. That’s a situation a lot of farmers have faced, and will continue to face as the restructuring of the farming sector in England continues. That was a really difficult time – particularly auction day when the machinery and equipment that I had built up over 18 years went under the auctioneer’s hammer. A year later I started working on the England Rural Development Programme socio-economic schemes (known then as Project Based Schemes) as an HEO based in Cambridge, and worked on delivery of these schemes until joining FFCP on loan last August.
Now in my Policy and Strategy role I’m seeking to be the best that I can be, drawing on my farming and RDPE delivery experience to (hopefully!) make a positive contribution to FFCP and Defra objectives. On our small farm we have worked hard, seeking to leave it in a better condition than when I took it over in 1982, both environmentally and in terms of being a productive and viable (albeit small!) farm. I aim to be part of FFCP leaving the English farming industry and countryside in a better place.
So what difference does my faith make to my day job? Well – through church I’ve come to understand myself which is a big help. For example - I know that there is part of me which can naturally be anxious, fearing that I’m not ‘good enough’. This could easily result in me sitting back and observing rather than being a leader which involves (or can feel like) running the risk of making mistakes or getting things wrong. Knowing that tendency is really helpful as I can be objective and not let it detract from me being a leader. Another key positive from my faith is that I know that I am hugely valued, and therefore my value (or more accurately how valuable I feel) doesn’t depend on how I perform at work. That takes an unhelpful pressure off my shoulders – but don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, as I still want to do my work as well as I possibly can. There’s a verse in the Bible which says ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters’. My faith means that I’m not working to prove my value – that’s already settled. Making that practical – if I make a mistake I’ll learn from it, but it doesn’t have a disproportionate impact on me. Summing up – I’m a Christian family man who loves living in the countryside, seeking to make a positive contribution to the team I work in and to the countryside I enjoy.