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Interview with OM Rebecca Wilson (2015) , Farmer, Podcaster and Influencer. 

Rebecca Wilson attended Queen Mary’s from 2010 – 2015, before taking A levels at Repton School.  After studying Human, Social and Political Sciences at Homerton College, Cambridge, Becca then went on to take a Masters degree in Rural Estate Management at The Royal Agricultural University. Following this, she explored a few jobs in the agricultural sector before returning to work on her family farm when her father suffered a brief illness. After documenting her work on social media channels, she started a podcast, formerly known as Boots and Heels, which covers farming from two very different perspectives. In 2022 Becca was created an NFU Student and Young Farmer Ambassador. 

We spoke to Becca about her time at Queen Mary’s and the influence it has had on her life. 

What is your first memory of Queen Mary’s?

I had a trial day on a Saturday morning and the first sight that greeted me was a girl cleaning her riding boots in a sink as she was getting ready to head out hunting. I had horses at home but none of my friends rode, so I was thrilled to arrive at a school where visiting the stables was considered a completely normal part of life! 

How do you remember your time at Queen Mary’s?

School at Queen Mary’s wasn’t just an education but a full upbringing. It was a huge privilege to be educated in such beautiful surroundings by teachers who were really interested in us. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned at Queen Mary’s?

In terms of life skills, the school taught me how to take risks. I learned that life is more than just lessons: there is so much more beyond the classroom – scaffold walking, canoeing, or river swimming were there to push us out of our comfort zones. I think the breadth of pupils’ interests and talents in the school fostered the idea that there is a place in the world for everyone.

Queen Mary’s also taught me how to manage my time properly: juggling after school clubs, alongside prep, and visiting the stables developed an ability to prioritise, which is a skill that has really served me well.

Which members of staff were the most influential?

Mrs Coles was a great science teacher, and Miss P, along with her beloved dogs Gussy and Brindley was totally part of the furniture at QM. History hadn’t been a big part of my education before I came to Queen Mary’s and Miss P was an absolutely fantastic teacher. I remember Madame Punshon telling us that we would know we’d finally made it when we started dreaming in French and I really enjoyed Mrs Hopkins’ biology lessons and loved being in the biology lab, complete with snake, tarantula, salamander and even an axolotl!

Are you still in touch with any old friends?

Yes – I see Arabella Thompson at events in Yorkshire and keep in regular contact with Harriet Duxbury. Social media means that I can keep up to date with what everyone else is up to, so I often think I’ve spoken to someone recently then realise it’s actually been a while!

How did you start your farming career?

After Queen Mary’s I went to Repton to study for my A levels, as I was a very keen hockey player, then on to Homerton College, Cambridge to read Human, Social and Political Sciences. I loved it there as it was quite a relaxed college with a sporting outlook so I was able to become a hockey blue and was also awarded my blades for rowing too. 

After leaving Cambridge, a lot of my friends were going to London to work in the City – I didn’t feel that type of work was for me, so I went to study Rural Estate Management at the Royal Agricultural University at Cirencester. I found a whole community of people who understood farming, and made so many useful contacts and connections. I went on to work as a rural surveyor in Oxfordshire but I didn’t find the role agricultural enough, so I took a job as a project manager in poultry equipment supply company. However in May 2021, my father became ill and couldn’t drive for six months, so I returned home to help out on the farm until he was better. Two years later, I’m still here and absolutely loving it! It’s extremely challenging, (there’s just me, my mum and dad) but amazing to learn how to manage a farm. The responsibility can feel overwhelming, but it’s also an honour to learn how to look after the countryside, take care of livestock and produce food at the same time. 

How did you become an influencer?

I started documenting my farming experience on social media when I returned to the family farm – and it just developed from there. I think the key is not to overcomplicate things and to be as authentic as possible. Everybody has a phone and can edit videos. It doesn’t matter what you look like – it’s your message and what interests you that is really important. 

How did the podcast start and do you have any advice for anyone wanting to establish their own podcast?

The podcast seemed a natural extension of my social media. I don’t believe podcasts have to be reserved for professionals – I met my co-presenter Lizzie when we were both working in the poultry industry and we thought it would be good to combine two very different perspectives of farming. I’m obviously from a farming background but my co-presenter isn’t, so together we bring very different points of view. 

With apps and free software, we started recording on our phones and laptops – anyone can do it but I would definitely recommend investing in good microphones!  We try to make our conversations real – it’s best not to be too scripted, or you will sound very stilted and unnatural. As time has gone on we have become more confident and I am so proud of all the people we have interviewed – from Minette Batters, President of the NFU, to Kelvin Fletcher from Emmerdale and Strictly,  to the Hairy Bikers – everyone we have spoken to has very different backgrounds but shares a love of the land. 

Can you describe a typical day?

Not really, as I never know what I’ll wake up to! Problem solving is usually a key part of any day – from lambing, to tractor driving, and managing crops – there is always something different to do and an issue to resolve.

On the arable side of farming, I’ve had to learn to embrace all the technology – from mapping crops, to using satellites to measure amounts of seed and fertiliser needed – and there is a lot to learn. 

On the livestock side, I reintroduced sheep to the farm three years ago alongside my twin sister, Rosie, and we are slowly building up the sheep stock. It started as a hobby but we’re keen to gradually increase the numbers. Aside from the physical aspect of animal husbandry the job also requires lots of data recording and the establishment of good breeding and extremely high standards of animal welfare. It’s been a huge learning curve, but I really enjoy it. 

What are the best and worst aspects of your roles?

The best part is definitely being part of a family farm. I have the freedom to pursue other opportunities. It’s a fantastic privilege to be a farmer, producing vital goods and being responsible for improving the landscape. From a podcasting perspective, I love being able to meet some of my industry heroes and to have the opportunity to have some really interesting conversations with people I never thought I’d get the chance to speak to. 

The worst part of the job is when you have tried to treat an ill animal and you just can’t save it. It’s hugely disappointing, not from a cost factor, but because a sheep is not just a sheep but part of a future flock and would have gone on to have offspring of its own, so you are losing a part of the farm’s future as well as its present. 

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

I think speaking on BBC Breakfast about the importance of mental health awareness in the farming community was definitely up there. It was fantastic to be able to highlight an issue that’s very close to my heart to an audience of over six million people. 

Last year I was an NFU Student and Young Farmer Ambassador and was given a huge amount of support. I went to Parliament, was given media training and made so many helpful contacts that will hopefully be there to support me throughout my farming career. 

What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into farming?

There is a misconception that you need to be born into farming in order to work in it. I would suggest getting some work experience with a local farmer and trying to build a relationship with them. If you are prepared to give up some free time to work alongside a farmer, that will really help, but bear in mind that they are really busy at key times of the year, so if they don’t get back to you, keep persevering. 

As farms have become more efficient there are fewer employees taken on, so it’s also worthwhile looking into other jobs in and around farming. Agricultural technology is a big area that incorporates the use of satellite navigation systems, and variable rate software for sowing seed or distributing fertiliser according to the crop’s requirements. These are all areas related to the farming industry that offer potential jobs.

Finally, if you could travel back in time, what advice would you give a thirteen year old you?

I would tell myself to back myself, have the confidence to try things and faith in my ability – have a listen to episode 1 of Becca and Lizzie: What I Know Now for the full answer to this question!

For links to Becca’s Instagram, YouTube and other media platforms, go to Becca Farms 

Listen to both podcast series here:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/becca-lizzie-the-podcast/id1682202585

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/what-i-know-now/id1682797770 

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