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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Shepherd's Lives


The geographic constraints of the farm are permanent, but within them
we are always looking for an angle.
― James Rebanks 

I had the honor yesterday to visit the farm of James Rebanks, to interview him for a couple trade magazine articles.

Rebanks is a British sheep farmer, an Internet rock star, and author of
The Shepherd's Life, an international phenomenon whose sales have already reached over 350,000 copies.

He sat down for the interview over lunch, his clothes still muddy from the fields, where he'd been working since before dawn to care for his animals (lambing season hasn't quite yet ended, so the farm is busy).

Rebanks mentioned that, after lunch and our interview, he'd be meeting with students in the classroom he and his wife have built onto the rear of their home. Student groups visit the farm regularly to learn about raising sheep. Sheep farming at a small scale isn't very profitable, so teaching is a second income stream for the couple.

Although farming is his occupation, Rebanks, in addition to teaching, supplements his family's income with writing, professional speaking, consulting, and even the occasional construction job.

With the soft demand for wool and meat, crushing competition from industrial farms, and small-famers' meager subsidies from the government, every small sheep farmer is the UK today has to diversify, to get by. The income from a small farm is just too little to sustain anyone.

The next time I complain about having too many clients, too many projects, and too many emails to read, poke me.

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