Five minutes with shepherdess Emma Gray
28th June 2021
Farmers Guide spoke to Emma about her move back to her Scottish roots, challenges facing British farmers and her nearly 30K-strong Instagram following.
Emma took on tenancy of the National Trust’s Fallowlees Farm in Northumberland when she was just 23, with only a suitcase and four collie dogs to her name. Now a much bigger farming enterprise, she lives with husband Ewan and runs 500 crossbred sheep to produce fat lambs and a herd of 30 native cattle breeding store cattle – as well as breeding top quality sheepdogs.
In 2020 she sold a champion sheepdog for a record-breaking £19,000. “We train up a number of young dogs each year, we sell off the dogs who aren’t what we are looking for, which provides us with a good income,” she explains. “We also sell dogs after completing the nursery trials – these elite dogs make us the most money.”
With a following of 28.9K on Instagram, Emma also wrote One Girl and her Dogs, went on to star in various farming TV shows and now has a second book, My Farming Life. She credits her success to authenticity: “Be yourself and you will get the right followers,” she says.
Having grown up on her parents’ farm, Emma explains: “I was always passionate about farming and animals; I also liked the idea of being my own boss and really loved my dogs. Fallowlees just came up at the right time in my life when I was looking for a new challenge.”
Together with her family she has now left the remote 100-acre Fallowlees site and moved back to her Scottish roots, in order to expand and also reside in a less isolated location. The new farm is 680 acres on the Isle of Bute. Whilst the family will miss Northumberland, they are excited about the new adventure.
“We plan to do very much the same as we have done, just on a bigger scale,” Emma comments.
She describes farming, the ability to work outside and be your own boss as “the best job in the world”, but being at the mercy of the weather is a serious challenge.
Echoing many British farmers, she adds that the Australia trade deal is “worrying”, along with the “loud voices” of the vegan movement.
Boris Johnson has reached a broad agreement with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and while details are thin on the ground, it is expected that the deal will be tariff- and quota-free after 15 years. It has prompted widespread concern, not only from farmers, but also veterinary and animal welfare groups, as well as consumers.Emma comments: “I feel deeply let down and very anxious about the Oz deal; I feel Boris has sold us down the river for very little in return. Having set a precedent with Oz, all the other countries will want at least the same. I’m not sure how UK agriculture can compete whilst still upholding the environmental and welfare standards we are famed for.”
To find out more about Emma, follow her on Instagram @emmagrayshepherdess