Brexit roadtrip - Nigel Akehurst (Livestock farmer)


“To me Brexit is a massive distraction from much more important things. I really hope we can sort something out really soon and go back to a normal existence, where we can look at how we can improve our food system. A people’s vote, or a second referendum would keep us in this state of inertia.”

Nigel Akehurst is a third generation farmer at Hockham Farm in East Sussex. Aside from his farming activities Nigel runs a website called Indiefarmer. Hockham is a mixed livestock farm with 300 breeding ewes and 50 suckler cows on about 400 acres, which is relatively small compared to other farmers in this area. Due to the soil quality, you won’t yield as much with arable farming compared to other areas in the Great Britain, so livestock farming is what most people do around here.

Since he joined his parents on Hockham Nigel’s been looking to diversify their income. ‘Sadly, the farm alone can’t pay all our salaries. So we’re working on selling our produce directly instead of bringing it to the local livestock market, which we still do with most of our sheep. By selling directly to consumers we’d be insulating ourselves from market forces.”

Effects of Brexit so far

“At the moment, the sheep price on the market is beginning to dip down a little bit, due to nervousness around Brexit. It might be fine, but at the moment nobody really knows what will happen post Brexit. A lot of farmers have reduced the number of sheep. We don’t have a huge domestic consumption of sheep, so the majority goes abroad. At the moment there are no tariffs, so it’s a ready made market. If we have a no-deal Brexit, tariffs wil go up and that meat will have to go somewhere else. The price for beef might go up, we’re relying on Irish farmers to send us a lot of beef. If they would face new tariffs, we might rely more on domestic production. But really, nobody knows what will happen. That’s the real problem, it’s extremely difficult for farmers to plan. It has been for two years.”

The future of farming

“Ideally in ten years time I’d like British farming to be more vibrant, for family farming to do well. Family farms may diversify a bit more, but it should be possible to make a living just farming the land. I really hope that a younger generation take on the mantle of family farms and will be able to move them forward and make them profitable  

Maarten Kuiper