My Money: 'I've gone from being a photographer to a farmer'

  • Published
Anna Jackson with a lambImage source, Anna Jackson
Image caption,
Anna Jackson has swapped photography for life on the farm

My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money - and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here Anna Jackson, 27, takes us through a week in the life of her family's farm in Bottesford near Scunthorpe, where she has returned after the coronavirus outbreak brought her freelance photography work to a halt.

Over to Anna....

Like most people, corona has really turned my life upside down. I've gone from being a freelance sports photographer in London to being a farmer in Lincolnshire.

Rather than my life revolving around shoots, coffee meetings and cycling around the Big Smoke, I now wake up early for lamb feeding with Timmy our orphan lamb, learning about drilling and fixing fence posts with nosy cows trying to lick you.

Currently I am not furloughed as I was freelance, so money is in short supply to say the least. I'm still paying £815 a month for rent plus bills for a London flat that I'm not living in, plus £114 for my monthly subscriptions. I'm volunteering for my Mum (Sally) doing photography, social media and videography at The Pink Pig Farm shop and park in Scunthorpe, whilst also working full time on the farm with Dad.

Mum has furloughed 24 staff, so she only has my sister and me to help with her daily farm shop stall, where we sell everyday essentials. Our chickens haven't stopped laying.

Image source, Anna Jackson
Image caption,
The chickens haven't stopped laying at the Jackson family farm

Weekly shop. Now that I'm back living with my parents (it's taken some adjusting to) we do a weekly shop, this includes all the meals throughout the week. We try to only go to the supermarket once a week. As my parents are older I don't want to add potential risk when we don't need to.

One person is the designated shopper. My sister has been relegated as she buys too many naughty treats, my Dad has been kindly asked not to go because he deviates from the whole shopping list and I can't go anymore because I take too long. So Mum grudgingly does the weekly shop.

Total spend: £88 for the weekly shop. (£22 per person).

I've been one of the rare key workers who has been travelling around in the car ever since the virus was announced. When we first started driving to the agricultural suppliers the roads were empty apart from lorries. We, of course, had our government letter of authority to travel, just in case we got stopped.

Since then the roads have definitely got busier. We aren't quite sure where people are going but it's definitely increased. Travel per week costs around £70.

We travel to the abattoir once a month to deliver pigs or sheep, and to an outlying farm three times a week. Although I don't have to pay this as it's a business expense, it has made me realise how much it costs to be a farmer and how much of a risk you spend upfront before you get full payment from your harvested crops.

Total spend: £0

Image source, Anna Jackson
Image caption,
Anna's father in the fields

Lamb chaos. We noticed one of the lambs had a swollen red eye so we took a photo and sent it to the vets. The vets said it was best to get an ointment to treat it. This isn't an easy feat as you need to first catch the lamb and then administer the ointment daily. Lambs are a pain to catch, they are nimble and speedy.

However, first we needed to get the lotion from the vets, and vets are not cheap. This costs the business money but luckily not me. It's making me understand how much it costs to run a family business, it's not dissimilar to the money I was spending in London.

Total spend: £0

Image source, Anna Jackson
Image caption,
Catching a lamb to give it medicine is not easy

Come quarantine with me. Every day has been blending into one, so we've decided to have a special dinner once a week as a family. There's a fancy dress theme and going over the top is advised.

A different person hosts it each week and cooks food associated with said theme. This is a great way to be creative with food, share the cooking and it doesn't cost any extra dimes. We each get rated with a score, because there's four of us we pronounce the winner at the end of the fourth week. Dad is at a slight disadvantage as his cooking often comes with a health warning. As a family we've had to find creative ways to keep entertained that are low on cost:

  • We have cinema afternoons on a Sunday
  • Special dinner once a week
  • Games nights, scrabble is a current favourite
  • Garden workouts (usually with sheep bleating at us)

Total spend: £0

A tricky sell. I sold one of my cameras and lenses today for extra cash to pay rent, as a photographer you need at least two cameras for events or shoots. Two reasons: if one goes wrong you have a back up, and secondly, during events you want a different lens on each camera to capture moments quickly.

This gave me an extra £450 which is great but doesn't even cover one month's rent. I've been doing some photo editing on the side with clients who need it/can afford it. This has helped immensely even though I only earn around £100 a month, every little helps.

Total spend: £0

Image source, The Runner Beans
Image caption,
Before and after - Anna can still make a little money editing images for clients who can still afford it

My Money

More blogs from the BBC's My Money Series:

Internal debate. Sadly since corona I've had three second-hand (borrowed) phones die on me, as my phone broke just before corona. Not through any fault of my own, they all just bit the dust one after another.

A few thoughts came to my head: that I probably shouldn't buy a new phone when currently I'm only losing money, and in theory I won't receive money from the government as a self employed taxpayer until June. However, as I'm doing social media for my photography business (Anna Rachel Photography) and my Mum's farm park, I would struggle to do both without a phone (I've already been stealing my Mum's for a good week, she isn't too pleased).

So I decided to bite the bullet and buy one. My savings have covered it and my theory is that I will need a new phone at some point anyway. Still a very scary decision, which took weeks of back-and-forth and an internal debate.

Total spend: £400

Image source, Anna Jackson
Image caption,
Anna is still active on social media

Farming isn't cheap. Sunday is a slow day, we wake up, feed the lambs, Dad and I go on a bike ride spying on all the other farmers' fields and then run the stall from outside the cafe.

Sunday is really the only rest day for farmers. My Dad wears his smarter clothes, and we try and not farm unless there's an emergency, like this week.

We got a phone call from our next-door neighbours saying we had piglets on the road. We hopped in the car but after driving up and down the road we couldn't find any loose piglets. This left us stumped for ages trying to figure out how they had gotten out. Eventually we realised they were getting under a fence.

Often on farms you need to spend money on repairs. This week we've bought lamb ointment, bolts for the tractor, lamb powder and a new nozzle for the sprayer. Expenses I know I couldn't afford this right now, but I feel fortunate that my Dad can keep the farm going.

Total spend: £0

Pre-corona spend: *£261.21

*Since corona I've stopped paying for a workspace, unsubscribed from lots of subscriptions, and the Adobe software company has paused payment on memberships during corona.

Post-corona spend: £22

Including new phone (an irregular expense): £422

Image source, Anna Jackson
Image caption,
Sunday is the closest farmers get to a day of rest

How does Anna feel about her week?

Whilst at the abattoir this week we got chatting to a 76-year-old farmer waiting in line (at a distance) and he mentioned how farmers are struggling so much during this crisis. Every farmer gets the single farm payment every year from the EU. This helps to covers costs as the supermarkets often don't pay farmers enough for their produce.

However these farm payments often don't leave room for savings, so lots of farmers don't have pensions, they will work their whole lives with an uncertain retirement. When I say "work" I'm talking about 12-hour shifts every day, on their feet, in the cold, it's hard labour (as I've discovered).

But they never complain and always greet you with a smile. This week I've realised I may be losing money and paying for things I can't afford but I feel very lucky to have learned so much about where our food comes from. Farmers are key workers that often get forgotten about.

They are constant key workers as without them we'd all have empty bellies. I guess I feel grateful for the farmers we have in the UK and lucky that I am involved in the process.

You may be eating some of the quinoa I've planted this time next year (if it rains)!