Shannon doesn’t come from a farming family but her dislike of being stuck in a classroom led her to decide that whatever career she chose she needed to work outdoors. She chose to study an HNC course in Countryside and Environmental Management and found a work placement at Pittarthie Farm in the East Neuk.
“I chose a college course which offered me the chance to do some work outside.” Says Shannon. “I got on the Countryside and Environmental Management HNC at Elmwood and that’s how I ended up working at Pittarthie Farm for my work placement.”
Pittarthie Farm, in the East Neuk of Fife, is a mixed farm managed by owner Patrick Bowden Smith to be diverse, productive and sustainable. The farm uses a series of ponds to provide drainage and these are also designed to be good for wildlife. Shannon gets her sense of achievement from both the hard physical work and from the way in which she adds value to the landscape.
“Recently I’ve been jagging sheep , clipping their toes and making sure they are healthy. It’s not glamorous but it is good work. You feel you’ve achieved something. Last summer I created a pond using watercress and osier willows to keep the water clean naturally. This is conservation farming and it ties right into my course. It’s great that Patrick makes it possible. His enthusiasm really rubs off on you.”
Shannon is not your typical farmer. Being on the small side she relies on brains rather than brawn to get heavy work done. She says she needs to think her way through some of the harder physical tasks which often involves figuring out how to use the tractor to move things around. aware that it can be really difficult to get into farming as land prices are high and small farms available to lease are rare. Her current goal is to become a smallholder but she is keeping her options open. The next step is the HND course at Oatridge College but while she is already a competent tractor driver she has not yet passed her car driving test.
“That’s fairly important when you work in the countryside so I need to sort that out. I need to because this isn’t really a job it’s a lifestyle and I want to stick at it. There’s a saying in farming you work hard through the day and you feel like you’ve earned your tea. It’s a positive way to live. I like the sense of achievement every day.”