"I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a farmer. I would follow my Dad round the farm at every opportunity helping him with the everyday tasks. When I couldn’t be outside, I would be carpet farming with my own toy farm. I had even made detailed plans on how we could expand the farm when I had left school.
Sadly, all this was to change, as my father died in a farm accident when I was just eight years old. Despite many people advising my Mum to sell the farm, she decided to hang on to it, and rented it out to a family friend. Over the next few years, I lost my day-to-day contact with the farm, as it was being farmed as part of a larger unit. I also moved schools, and consequently lost touch with my farming friends.
I wasn’t a natural academic, but had a flair for maths. This led to me studying engineering, followed by a further course in agricultural engineering, and finally a Degree in Agriculture with Engineering. In the meantime I had re-established contact with my faming roots and had worked for farmers, contractors and in the ancillary industries in different parts of the country.
Finding the right sort of job at this stage proved to be a challenge. I started working for the farmer who rented our farm, and one or two other farmers in the area. I enjoyed this greatly, and before long an opportunity presented itself, where I could provide my own tractor for work.
It wasn’t long before the first tractor was followed by a couple more, and a JCB. Suddenly I had a quite a lot of work, and I was busy with contracting work all year round. Then in 2002, the farmer who had been renting our farm decided he wanted to downsize, and gave me the opportunity to buy him out of our farm. I jumped at the chance, bought the sheep in situ and took over.
I had to refocus my contracting, working mainly for one firm that offered me the flexibility I needed to build up my farming business. The contracting has changed again too. I now concentrate on baling, spraying and seeding grassland for local farmers. This keeps me busy throughout the summer, allowing me to concentrate on my livestock during the rest of the year. Over the years I have improved the farm with the help of family and friends and got it into a state that I believe my father would be proud of."
Dave Clarke farms above Fremington, in Swaledale.
This is an interview from my 2019 “Dalesfolk” book. For more information, go here: http://gullwingphotography.co.uk/dalesfolk/