Beth Pedlar is a young dairy farmer operating in the North of Devon. She hails from Somerset but moved to Devon at the age of four.
She has always been an animal lover, but only recently got into the industry. She has always had a large number of pets growing up, goes horse riding regularly, and always loved visiting
the local agricultural shows when she was younger.
Though her path into the industry was not as clear as most. Beth studied art and design in college but decided that she would rather work instead of focusing on her studies in university.
After working in a supermarket chain for a short period she found in agriculture upon her father’s recommendation. Her father, now an environmental Agency worker, himself went to college
where he studied Agriculture. This I feel is where her inspiration was gained. She soon started a new job helping a local farmer during lambing season. But upon the seasons conclusion she
went on the search for work once more.
It was then Beth took the first steps on her way to where she is today. When she was 19 years old she applied for, and received, a job working on a local dairy farm. From then she knew this
was her calling as she says herself, “I Instantly fell in love” with the job. She loved every aspect of it adding that her “boss was really nice, the herdsman and the other lads all had a great
sense of humour and the whole farm had a lovely atmosphere”.
From here she moved around the North Devon area working on other dairy farms.
Her travels have had her living in a caravan milking 100 jerseys 8 abreast, living in a cottage milking 600 cows (30/60 swing over), and to where she is now Living near South Molton. She
now relief milks for three separate farms, one Jersey and two Holstein/Friesian.
A typical day for Beth starts off at the ripe old time of 5.a.m. She wakes up has her morning brew and is off out the door to milk 550 animals with the herdsman. She finishes up around 8:30
when she heads back to her house she finally has her breakfast.
Then as the saying goes “there’s no rest for the wicked’ as she is off out the door again and to the local chicken farm. It is here she processes over 11,000 eggs, with the help of machines,
and stacks them in their boxes onto a pallet. That takes her up to lunch time where she quickly eats before making her way to the next milking job. “ I really enjoy my chicken farm job, and
I can’t really imagine what my life would be like if I weren’t farming”.
It is here she sets up the and gets everything ready, getting the cows in and milking all 230 by herself. When Beth finally gets finished here, she finally clocks off, usually around half six.
When home she either relaxes after a hard day’s work or heads out for a bit of horse riding.
She harbours early childhood memories of visiting a friend’s farm as a child and watching cows being milked. Another memory, one her mother would not like to recall, is watching her father
shooting crows. She also remembers checking sheep with her father at a young age. Which makes it clear to me, This girl was always destined to end up in the industry, “I remember finding
it all really interesting and always enjoyed days on the farm with dad” she said.
She is now seven years in the agriculture sector and couldn’t be happier. She told me of her love for cows saying, “I’m one of the nutty ones that goes around hugging the friendly ones”.
Her skillset doesn’t stop there though Beth also paints. She started painting again two years ago and has started up a commission based animal portrait business called Pedlar pet portraits.
Beth hopes to keep all jobs going together as she feels she thoroughly enjoys both so much.
When asked whether she had any advice for young women debating whether or not to take the step into the sector, Beth said “Go for it - you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it but either way,
you’ll know soon enough.” But warned that “It’s a dirty job and it's bloody hard work, milking in minus 6 degrees is hard on your hands, and milking in 30 degrees in a parlour full of biting
flies is pretty hard too.”
She says women do face a certain degree on old-fashioned-ness still in the industry. But she says this is the small minority of “old fashioned” farmers who “think that a woman should only
have one job on the farm and that’s the cooking.” Although she does think that times have changed a lot in recent years, adding that she now thinks women are finally accepted in the
industry and telling us she knows “heaps of women who work in agriculture”. Adding that “Some of whom run their own farms and some who do a better job than most men”.
She also said that although she might not be as strong as most men that it is irrelevant, as she is “not carrying the cows into the parlour”. Further encouraging women to take a chance on
themselves, and not to be undeterred by reasons such as that.
All is not easy in the sector at the moment and Beth harbours worries like everyone else. She says Milk prices are still a real problem, but as is TB in the Devon area. She told us of the
heartbreak of seeing numerous animals put to slaughter due to the disease and says it is “absolutely heart-breaking seeing so many cows, literally hundreds of them, being killed because
they have positively reacted to skin tests. I’ve had my heart broken many times having to say goodbye to my favourites”. She showed her true kind heartedness and love for animals by
adding that “To a lot of farmers, cows are no different to pet dogs and cats”.
She spoke fondly of the majestic views she witnesses through her job and its is abundantly obvious how much she enjoys it, “There are days when you you’re getting the cows in and you
just have to switch the quad off and take in the view. “.
She says funny things/stories are a regular occurrence on the farms, with cows eating her hair, numerous trips and falls into manure and also tricks played by the herdsmen.
She specifically remembers one incident where one of the herdsman changed the milk to the calves’ powder milk as he knew she would be having her usual hot chocolate that day. Much to
the delight of the herdsman she drank it noticing it tasted a bit off. Although it was all in good fun.
It is plain to see from listening to Beth talk so fondly about her job that she truly has found her calling in life. A true animal and farming enthusiast who has a real sense of care and affection
for the industry.
Still only young, with so much accomplished already, Beth will definitely be present in the industry for many years to come.
A determined, ambitious, and very hard working woman in agriculture, fair play Beth keep up the good work.