Name: Rebecca Miles
Business: Lane Farm
Role: Farm Manager
“It’s hard work but I love it. It’s not a career for me, it’s a lifestyle.”
Lane Farm near Woodbridge in Suffolk produces a range of pork products from home-reared pigs on site. A family business, it is run by Ian and Sue Whitehead and their daughter Rebecca.
Having bought the farm in 1987, they began supplying pigs in the UK and overseas before diversifying to create a range of pork products 20 years ago.
For Rebecca, farm life is all she has known, being born into the family just three days after her parents bought the farm at auction. After finishing university, she took a gap year and worked on farms in Australia and New Zealand before returning to the UK and gaining experience in farm shops and local farm businesses. Five years ago she returned to the farm and began her full-time career with her parents.
She says, “I’ve always been a part of the farm. As a child, my sister and I would go to farmers’ markets with mum and dad to sell the eggs from our chickens whilst they sold their produce. Life growing up was focused on the farm and the animals – pigs make the best babysitters!
“When I was 16 I bumped into a student at a farmers’ market and she told me about a course she was studying at Harper Adams University on agriculture, food, marketing and business studies. I don’t know her name but I will always remember the conversation as it was such a pivotal moment for me. I was so inspired by what she described and it summed me up perfectly so I enrolled on the course.
“Working on farms in my gap year and then learning various sides of the business at local farms really gave me a thorough understanding of the industry before I began working at Lane Farm full-time.”
Rebecca started from the bottom and worked her way up to her managerial position today. She is responsible for a small on-site production team and oversees the completion of orders, making sure that customer requirements are met. She also carries out technical audits, in-store demonstrations and helps with any jobs needed across the farm.
Lane Farm has been part of the Sourced Locally initiative with the East of England Co-op since it began ten years ago and Rebecca describes the relationship as supportive, especially as a young person in agriculture.
She explains, “The Co-op has always been supportive of me as a young person in the industry and is always looking to learn more about us to help promote our brand and our products.
“There are so many routes into agriculture for young people now which is fantastic, such as apprenticeships and college courses which can lead to jobs in buying, production and sales as well as farm management.
“I’m part of Suffolk Young Producers’ Group which has been such a source of support for me. We meet four times a year and it provides an opportunity to talk with and learn from likeminded people, as well as meeting new producers.”
For Rebecca, gender has never been a barrier within the industry. As someone that started out herself after being encouraged by another woman studying agriculture, she would encourage others to consider a career in agriculture or food.
She says, “It’s hard work but I love it. It’s not a career for me, it’s a lifestyle, and the rewards can be fantastic. We were named as overall Producer of the Year by the Co-op in 2014 which was amazing, I was totally taken aback. But as my Dad says – “you’re only as good as your last sausage”, so we work really hard to keep our quality high.
“When you’re in local shops and you see people choosing your products it’s so rewarding. There can never be enough publicity around the benefits of shopping local, and as we grow as a business we will continue to show people the amazing quality food, from well-cared for animals, that is available from British producers.”
For further information on Lane Farm visit www.lanefarm.co.uk