Working on several farms in England, cemented Victoria Barkley’s passion for agriculture.
The 23-year-old grew up on a family-run farm in Portglenone, Co. Antrim; the holding was initially owned by her grandfather who farmed pigs and beef and dairy cattle.
“From the time I was born, this was a beef farm; we bought-in calves and reared them for slaughter,” she told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“I have been living on this farm most of my life. The land is currently leased, but I work part-time for the farmer who runs a sheep and beef enterprise.”
Victoria resided in England from the ages of 18 to 21; during this time, she attended Plumpton College on a part-time basis and worked on dairy farms in West Sussex and Yorkshire.
“When I moved to Yorkshire, I started to contract with the farm for the harvest season. I had to reverse around the maize field when we first entered the field to gather the crops.”
“Milking over there is a lot different from practices here; it is by the book and there are a few more steps in the rules than what we would have.”
Completing this line of work made Victoria realise that she should steer her career in this direction; she returned to Antrim in 2017 knowing that farming runs through her veins and it will always be a part of her life.
“I have a special bond with animals – I talk to them and find by doing so, they are easier to work with and aren’t as scared to approach you.” she explained.
Victoria completed a number of courses to enhance her knowledge when she was in the UK; she studied animal care and an LKL dairy course.
“I learned about medicines, milk collections, calving, AI and farm machinery; this gave me a lot of confidence to drive tractors and machinery."
Now back on her home soil, Victoria enjoys the variety that beef and sheep farming offer; she is responsible for animal husbandry and other general duties such as herding and grassland management.
“I love this position because not only am I learning from my dad, but it is also giving us a chance to bond.”
“It is also allowing me to meet new farmers and get advice about livestock and machinery but also talk about grass development.”
“It can be challenging at times especially buying livestock at marts at my height, as normally I am hidden in the crowds.” she laughed.
The 23-year-old has also been interested in photography from a young age; she purchased a DSLR and began capturing shots of vehicles and livestock which later led to the establishment of her own photography business – you can find her work here and here.
“I let my friends see the photos and they were amazed at the quality, so I started offering photography services to friends and family.”
“I was recently commissioned to capture shots of an on-farm engagement shoot and I have been taking photos of a local contractor to promote his services.”
“I am currently waiting on a drone and when I get this, I plan to take videos of farmers doing silage, slurry, hedge-cutting etc along with covering weddings and car events.”
Women in Ag
Victoria believes that women in agriculture are not recognised enough for their contribution at farm and industry level. “Some people don’t believe that I went to England and worked out there.”
“I will say that I have surprised a few farmers with the tractor and cattle work I can do that I learned when in England.”
“Do whatever makes your heart happy. If you love cattle and working with animals, then do it, don’t be scared,” she explained.
Looking ahead, Victoria’s main plans for the future include growing her photography business and finding her feet in the haulage industry.
She has recently secured a class 1 licence and is seeking a position with a livestock haulage company.“I plan to get the farm up and running in my name and take control of the ground and machinery.”
“If I could turn back time, I would go back to the layout my grandfather had and I would keep it the same to this day,” she concluded.
If you are a woman in agriculture and you want to share your story, email – email@example.com – with a short bio.