Farmer Roger Jackson: Focus on the future

“I reckon about 20 yards of land has disappeared along our border with the Derwent,” says Roger Jackson, who runs the farm together with his wife, Margaret. He points to a sign he placed on one of the farm buildings marking the maximum water level in 2009.

Seaton Mill Farm used to do fairly well with its grain crops and various combinations of sheep, cattle and pigs. But as farming conditions changed, stabling for horses was added to the mix, together with various facilities that attract horse owners to use the farm as their base. “Focusing on satisfying the equestrian market has another advantage,” Roger says. “A lot that happens on a farm has a fairly long rotation time but the horse operations bring in cash every month.”

He is now further diversifying the farm by planting willow on a third of his 36 hectares. What attracts him is the reliable income over time that comes from being a contract grower for Iggesund Paperboard.

“I was attracted by its long-term nature and the relatively low workload. But subsequently I’ve learned more about the sustainability aspects of this type of crop and that it also helps to reduce the effects of flooding.”

Another aspect that Roger emphasises is that the crop will lead to better landscape conservation. The land to be planted was previously hired out for grazing. But tenants of grazing land have no interest in making long-term efforts to develop the area. Now that Jackson is taking care of the land himself, he believes he can both take a long-term approach and gain yet another reliable source of income.

When not working on the farm, Roger and his wife Margaret are both involved in the West Cumbria Orienteering Club, which takes them out into the countryside.

“It’s a fantastic hobby that requires intellectual sharpness, good physical condition and the ability to make correct decisions under pressure. And who doesn’t need to improve in all these areas?” he says, adding how proud he is of the club and its 250 members.

Roger Jackson