Image of a combine harvester in a field

What does the farmer do?

Farmers produce food, and there are two main kinds of farms in the UK: arable farms and livestock farms.

Arable farms grow crops such as wheat, potatoes, fruit and salad vegetables.

Image of a cow’s face

Cows or crops?

Livestock farms raise animals such as cows, pigs, chickens and sheep. There are also mixed farms which grow crops and keep livestock but these are less common than the two main kinds.

Most livestock farms are found in the north and west of Britain because these areas have more rain for growing grass for the animals to eat. The slightly warmer and drier climate of the south and east is better for growing crops like cereals (wheat, barley and oats).

Image a countryside landscape

All around the countryside

You can see the work of farmers everywhere in the countryside. Fields, meadows, hedges, dry-stone walls, ditches, copses and paths are all there because of farming. Three quarters of the land in the UK is used for agriculture and the country’s farmers produce 67% of all the food we eat.

Click on the facts

Image a countryside landscapeFarming facts

  • 1. There are about 300,000 farms in the UK
  • 2. Only one in every 100 people in Britain works in farming
  • 3. People in Britain spend about 11p of each pound they earn on food – 60 years ago it was twice as much
  • 4. The average size of a farm in England is 50 hectares (a hectare is about the size of a full-sized football pitch) and the average size of a farm in Scotland is 100 hectares.
  • 5. British farms produce 400,000 tonnes of cheese each year

 Animal facts

  • 1. Cows can eat up to 80kg of grass a day, which is about the same weight as a grown adult!
  • 3. Pigs cannot sweat – they keep cool by rolling around in mud!
  • 2. 22 million lambs are born in the UK each year
  • 4. Chickens have no teeth
  • 5. Most dairy cows are milked twice a day
  • 6. People in the UK use 26 million eggs a day

 Crop facts

  • 1. More wheat is planted in autumn than in spring
  • 2. Oilseed rape can be made into biodiesel fuel to power cars
  • 3. Using special machines, British peas are picked, frozen and packaged in just two hours!
  • 4. On dairy farms, the grass is cut in summer to be made into hay or silage to feed to the cattle in winter
  • 5. Different parts of the country specialise in different crops, such as apples in Kent, potatoes in East Anglia, rhubarb in Yorkshire, cauliflowers in Cornwall and gooseberries in Lincolnshire
  • 6. In Scotland the main cereal crop grown is barley and cereal farms are found mainly in the east of the country.

 Farmers’ jobs

Farmers do lots of different jobs, depending on what type of farm they work on:

  • 1. Ploughing and fertilising land
  • 2. Planting and harvesting crops
  • 3. Feeding and caring for animals
  • 4. Calving, lambing and delivering piglets
  • 5. Milking cows and collecting eggs
  • 6. Taking crops and animals to market
  • 7. Conservation, e.g. planting hedges and trees
  • 8. Driving machinery such as tractors and harvesters
  • 9. Maintaining fences, walls, buildings, animal pens, ditches, machines, etc.
  • 10. Filling in forms