I’m a Yorkshire lass, the eldest of four from a poor working-class background. I never really fit in to a box, having many interests I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, I was a bit of a wild child! As far back as I can remember I did have one love in life – animals. Throughout my early childhood I dreamt of becoming a vet, until I started helping out on farms and decided that was the life for me!
I made a decision when I was 9 years old, I didn’t want the life I’d been brought up in, I wanted a farm! I consciously chose to break every cycle I was born into. Child abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, fear, poverty and poorly educated. Having survived and overcome all of the cycles that frankly should have crashed me through those early years, I found myself once again challenged in the early 1990’s when I became a working homeless teenage single mum with a baby son.
All the odds were stacked against me, but I never lost hope of one day having my dream farm. Over the next 10 years I worked hard every hour God sent, working night shifts in factory’s, barmaid, waitress, cleaning, sometimes two or three jobs at a time, any job that would pay the bills and allow me to save. I went to college and sat my GCSE’s then went on to get a diploma. I met the man of my dreams, bought a house and had my daughter, that relationship came to an end and 2 years later we sold our house, that was my big break!
With my two young children and two dogs I packed up and moved to a run down, rural smallholding in the Yorkshire Dales, that’s when my adventures as a farmer began!
Starting small with no idea what I was doing I got my first few chickens, a couple of sheep and a pony. That was 2003, life has certainly evolved since then. I now have a small traditional farm in Scotland where I live with my 2 daughters, rear a flock of Texel and Ryeland sheep, Dexter and Limousin cattle, pigs, goats, horses, donkeys, chickens and dogs. Farm diversification excites me, I love coming up with different ways to make a living off the land, through that I’ve created several businesses all run from the farm, in the challenging farming economy my small farm couldn’t continue without them.
After surviving a multitude of difficult challenges over the years to be able to keep farming, I thought I’d come through the worst period of my life as things started to settle and seem to fall in to place. I thought I had it all. My beautiful farm that’d I’d worked hard to buy then keep, my family, a man that I loved and shared my life with after being on my own for so many years.
We’d taken a mortgage out on the farm to give us capital to invest in the property and businesses, I was so happy, it was exciting, we were building this amazing dream life together.
Three months after taking out the mortgage and already invested heavily in the farm, my world fell down around me when the ultimate betrayal completely crushed me. The man I loved and had been building a life with had been deceiving and betraying me as it turned out for years. The past six years of my life had been a lie and I had no idea who the man I’d been living with was.
I didn’t find out the full extent of his betrayal at once it came like a tsunami over several weeks and it got worse and worse. The night I found out the worst and last of it I told him to “Get the fuck out” the only words that came to me.
I lay on my sitting room floor that night stuck to the carpet with my own tears and cried until I thought my eyes would bleed. The feeling of absolute heartbreak, the sense of utter hopelessness was all consuming, my world went very dark and I didn’t know how I was going to survive this.
Left with £17 to my name and half a million pounds in debt, I was completely broken – physically, mentally emotionally, financially, spiritually every part of my being was broken. I had no one to turn to, it was just me and my youngest daughter Molly who at the time was 12 and had also frankly, been through enough.
I knew I had to somehow drag myself up again, somehow try to carry on and somehow get through this. I was no stranger to hard times I already knew what it felt like to go hungry and not have a roof over my head, but this was different. Being scrappy and resilient when your young with nothing is one thing but it’s completely different when you have built a life like I had and have a child, farm, livestock, there’s a new kind of panic that washes over you in overwhelming waves.
In moments like these the fight or flight instinct kicks in and we either fall apart and disappear, or we get up and fight! I knew I couldn’t just give up, but I didn’t believe I had it in me anymore to get back up and fight. I couldn’t function for months, fortunately, it was the middle of summer all my livestock were turned out to grass so it meant I just had to go check round and make sure everything was healthy and standing. As for my businesses, I let them dwindle away to nothing.
It has been the hardest journey I have ever walked, things were certainly bleak, to put it mildly. It was terrifying, yet a new spark of hope lit deep inside me that wouldn’t go away, I was in control of my future, I dragged myself up and realised the new possibilities for my life. I learned a lot about myself and developed ways to get through, to rebuild myself and my life.
I came up with creative ways to get everything I could out of all that I had, found strength from within that I didn’t know I had and learned to channel it and push forward.
My new book, Fearless Action Always, tells all! The full story of how I went from completely broke and broken, on the brink of loosing it all, to turning it all around finding happiness again and thriving.