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Karl Franklin: How I got started in farming

Introduction To Farming
October 23, 2020
Words by
Karl Franklin

Karl left school at 16, going straight into an apprenticeship training to become a fully qualified chef. He worked in various sectors of the catering industry full time until he was 23, being in the position of head chef for the last 12 months at a local two rosette restaurant. Alongside his passion for cooking and food, Karl has a love of animals and the great outdoors. In 2016, whilst still working as a chef, Karl set up his own business KF Produce, Gardening and Catering. The main aim was to provide local people with locally reared and sourced produce.

How did I get into farming? I think this is the best question to answer for my first blog.

I guess you could say that it all started at my Grandparents’ smallholding where I spent every summer holiday as a child helping make hay.

When I left school, I decided to follow my passion for cooking and train as a chef. This is how I spent the next seven years; working in the catering industry. However, this is not what we’re here to talk about!

Around five years ago, when looking at the two fields at my Grandparents’ where we always made hay, I thought to myself, there must be a way in which I can get more out of this land. Luckily for me, I had a few contacts who could help, and so, after chatting with various people, the idea of buying a small flock of store lambs was born.

A family friend, who farms sheep, pointed me in the right direction to sort all my paperwork and gave me the number of a farmer with store lambs for sale. Having received permission from my Grandfather on the Tuesday, I arranged to meet the farmer on the following Sunday.

Sunday came around and I headed off in my trusty Land Rover to go and just have a look at some sheep, or so I thought. By that afternoon I was stood in my Grandparents’ field admiring the 12 store lambs that I had just bought. Little did I know back then that this would be what hooked me onto farming.

In my last two years of working full-time as a chef, I reared the sheep through the winter and sold them as lamb boxes in the spring to friends and family. Having juggled these jobs for a couple of years, two years ago I decided that being a full-time chef really wasn’t for me anymore. I left my job, followed in my Parents’ footsteps and became a gardener. I set up my own business, KF Produce, Gardening and Catering, which allows me to have more flexibility and to expand the farming side of my business.

At this point I was still only working with the two fields at my Grandparents’ and I felt it was time to seek out some more space. I put a small advert in our village newsletter, asking if anyone had any fields available for grazing, and the people of the village did not let me down! I had multiple offers, starting with another seven acre field and then an 18 acre one as well. Two years on and I still graze those two fields, along with many more, now reaching a total of 60 acres. I use about half of the fields to make hay during the summer, which I sell into the equine industry, and the rest for grazing my store lambs.

My newest plan to expand the farming side of my business is through starting my own breeding flock. I bought 42 shearlings in the spring of this year and will putting the ram in with them very soon. Keep your fingers crossed for me in lambing season!

I really hope that you have enjoyed reading about where I started and how I got to where I am now. My best advice for anybody looking to do something similar would be to seek help from the people around you and don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions.

If you would like to keep up with what I do day to day or ask me any questions, check out my Instagram: @the_pretend_farmer, and drop me a message.

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