JENNIFER Jeffrey is a rural land agent for Galbraith, based in its Edinburgh and Galashiels offices. She is involved in a wide range of valuation and professional consultancy across the Scottish Borders and Lothians, as well as assisting with estate management.

She passed the Assessment of Professional Competence and in November, 2018, following two years of training with Galbraith, was also awarded her CAAV Fellowship by the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers in December 2018, as well as winning the SAAVA President’s Cup for achieving the highest mark in the Scottish exams – no mean feat!

She graduated from SRUC in 2016 with a first-class honours degree in Rural Business Management, having combined that with working at home on the family farm in Peebleshire, something she continues to be heavily involved in.

Recently, she took time out from her busy schedule to tell The SF how she combines her career with working on the farm, and a busy YFC schedule.

Did you grow up around agriculture?

I grew up in Peebles-shire and have always loved farming – it’s just always been part of my life. My parents and grandparents on both sides were all involved in farming, so I’ve never known anything different.

My maternal grandmother developed her own successful egg business as well as being married to a farmer, assisting him and having children to look after, so that was a great example to follow.

My grandfather on my dad’s side was an agricultural worker on a farm near Kelso where he was awarded a long service medal by the RHASS for nearly 40 years’ service.

How did you end up in the job you are in?

I set out doing a Rural Business Management degree at SRUC with no exact idea of what career I wanted to pursue in the long run, but knew I wanted a rural related job.

During my time at SRUC, the new Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) course started and I completed various RICS modules alongside my RBM degree. These included agricultural law, rural property valuations, and woodland management.

We were encouraged to get work experience during holidays and I got a placement with Galbraith between third and fourth year. I did a three-month placement in the Edinburgh office and then got offered a graduate job from that placement, and – it might sound cliched – but I’ve never looked back!

Can you tell us a bit about your current job?

I love my job working as a land agent because I get to visit farms and estates of all types and all sizes across the Lothians and Scottish Borders, and meet all the people that come along with them.

There is always a part of each business that is different from the way I would run things, or something which I benefit from seeing – its fantastic experience and I never tire of visiting farms and talking to farmers. No two days are the same.

Whats an ‘average’ day?

Because I’m based in both the Edinburgh and Galashiels offices, the average day could be a big day of travelling from East Lothian down to Langholm! Or it could be a day in office writing up valuation report and agreements.

Talking to farmers and rural professionals is part of my daily routine and it’s an element of my work that I thoroughly enjoy.

Is it a male dominated industry?

There’s not a day goes by when I don’t pick up interesting ideas and views from farmers who each have their own take on things. As a woman, arriving on a farm to carry out a valuation or a meeting, has never been a problem.

I think there are an increasing number of women in the industry and it has become more commonplace to see women in these roles. If you prove that you can do a good job and you know what you’re talking about, nobody cares if you’re male or female, it’s not an issue.

Have you ever felt discriminated within the industry, as a female?

No. I’m a great believer that if you are a professional and prove that you are capable and have done a good job for your clients then others will not discriminate, no matter who you are. Male or female!

Do you still help out on the farm at home?

My parents farm in Peebles-shire and I spend a good deal of time helping them. My dad has his own business alongside my mum as an agricultural engineer, hiring out and selling machinery.

How do you get involved?

I help with the sheep at weekends and in the early morning before work if there are any going to the market.

At lambing, I take a few weeks off work to help out. 2018 was difficult for sheep farmers – our worst night of the year was when the Beast from the East part two arrived suddenly and we had to bring all the ewes inside before the snow got too deep! It was a bit of a squeeze but we had a lot of lambs born that night, all survived, so we were very pleased – not all farmers were so lucky.

It was a really difficult time and not one I think anyone in the industry would be in a rush to repeat.

What other elements of the farm do you enjoy?

I enjoy a wide variety of being at home on the farm.

I’ve got a trailer licence so I can take animals on my own to the market in Lanark or Longtown if necessary and I would always go into the ring with my sheep. I really enjoy being involved in that side of things. There aren’t usually many women at market, but I’m used to it, and I certainly don’t let it bother me.

Going into the ring is something that my mum has always done, so she set a great example and it means that I’ve got the confidence to always do that as well – we’re proud of our stock and I like having the opportunity to show them off!

Have you taken anything from your education home to the farm?

In some ways. We have made a few changes on the family farm based on the things I learnt while at SRUC – we have had a completely closed flock for a few years – keeping our own ewe lambs for breeding.

We are also now more rigorous in culling ewes if they have had a problem lambing or have foot problems. We don’t tend to give things second chances these days, which might sound brutal, but you need to be a bit like that to make the most of what you have. These changes enable us to have more control and mean less time sorting problems.

Are you involved in farming, elsewhere in your life?

Yes! I can’t escape – not that I want to, mind you.

My partner is a potato farmer in Angus and he also studied at SRUC. He has benefited from his studies to enable him to change things around at home, such as employing crop production techniques and creating different efficiencies that might not have been in place in previous generations.

There’s a definite benefit from learning everything you can about a business – both from the practical and the administrative side of things.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I really enjoy being involved in Young Farmers. I am involved in a lot of ways, but I get quite stuck in with the handicrafts competitions at shows. I enjoy the baking and cooking side of things so I often have entries for those sections.

My annual highlight is usually competing in the industrial section at Peebles Show. I love being able to support our local show and being able to do that whilst doing something I enjoy, is even better.

Young Farmers comes with a great social life as well. As important as work is, a social life is important, too!

What are the biggest problems facing the agricultural industry?

The industry is faced with a lot of problems, but one that I think we should tackle are the environmental activists who protest on issues surrounding Scottish agriculture’s impact on the environment. We need to try and be better at informing the public with correct information.

Quality Meat Scotland is doing a great job in that respect, but if the whole industry could do their bit to promote and get our message out to the wider world, it would make such a huge difference.

What are your thoughts on the future?

I am optimistic for the future of farming and other rural industries. There are lots of opportunities for famers just now.

Being adaptable is the key to success. Difficulties will arise when farming businesses fail to adjust, whether that be changing their farming systems or diversifying.

That’s why I believe learning new things from colleagues and others in the industry is essential. There are good opportunities for the future if you make the most of your best assets.

Longer term, I’m not sure ... I haven’t thought too far ahead as yet. Continue working and progressing in the sector is really my main aim!