Our OB this month is Laura Hodgkins (nee Gilmour, Wi. 2000-05). Laura gave up her life in Marketing and Advertising to become a full time farmer in the South Downs.
When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
I don’t think I was ever entirely sure to be honest, probably something within ‘the arts’ as that is what I was most passionate about. I loved photography, design and fashion, and always envisaged I’d end up in a career that encompassed one of those subjects!
What do you do now, and what does your job involve?
I’m a full time farmer (girlaboutthefarm.co.uk)! A couple of years ago I made the leap from a career in marketing to taking on a long term farm tenancy in West Sussex on the Cowdray Estate. I farm alongside my husband, Andy Hodgkins (Ry. 2002-04) (who was actually the year above me at Brighton College!). We farm on the South Downs - predominantly sheep, approx 2,000 of them at the moment, we also have 150 rare breed cows and if that wasn’t enough, we are also imminently expecting our first child - plenty to keep us on our toes! We often laugh about how funny it would be to have told our 16 year old selves what our future would entail - I don’t think we would have believed it when we were at school!
What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?
For me, lambing time in April each year is the most challenging and rewarding aspect of farming! We lamb all of our sheep outside and only bring them indoors if they have a problem. It can be particularly tough if the weather is bad. I’m usually in charge of the barn which acts like a kind of hospital, and I always find it so rewarding when I have nursed a lamb back to health after struggling - it makes the whole job worth while.
What are you most proud of so far?
I’m extremely proud of what Andy and I have achieved since setting up our farm almost 3 years ago. As it used to be a dairy farm, and we have converted it to sheep, we have had to upgrade all of the fencing to ensure it is sheep proof - which means we layed down around 12,000 metres of new fencing in the first year alone! I also went on to win a ‘Digital Innovation Award’ at the British Farming Awards 2018 for my blog/social media that I set up upon making the transition into farming (www.girlaboutthefarm.co.uk), that was a proud and unexpected moment.
What is your fondest memory of school?
I made some of my best friends at school and my fondest memories are of us all sitting on the ‘Home Ground’ lunchtime at in the sunshine!
Who was your favourite teacher and why?
My art teacher, who was called Mr Twohig! He taught me so much about art and photography. To this day whenever I go to a gallery I can immediately recognise a style, or an artist based on what he taught me. He also encouraged me to go on to do an art foundation course, which eventually led me to going onto study ‘Graphic Design’ at university, paving the way for me to carve out a successful career in Marketing and Advertising.
What was the best piece of advice you were given whilst at Brighton?
To play to your strengths. A lot of my friends were very academic, but my stronger side was definitely within the arts.
What advice you give to your 18 year old self?
Not to stress to much about the future as it will all be okay in the end and to make sure to appreciate how special all of my friendships are. Brighton College set me up with the most incredible set of friends for life, and even if we all have very different careers/lives - we are still very much able to lean on each other when we need to - I think that’s so important.
Is there a book, song or film that changed your life?
That’s a tough question! This sounds a bit silly, but I realised how much I actually love hymns when Andy and I were choosing some for our wedding! They are all really nostalgic for both Andy and I and remind us of our time at school assemblies in chapel each morning.