Anna Bowen’s agricultural writing career was kickstarted by winning the Guild’s John Deere Training Award in 2013; she now juggles writing as a freelance journalist and copywriter, working as a farm business consultant and running a dairy farm in west Wales.
“I have written features for Farmers Guardian, Farmers Weekly, British Farmer and Grower, and Dairy Farmer, as well as non-farming press such as Horse and Rider, Vice, Metro, and the BBC,” says Anna. “I also do some freelance copywriting for a PR company; my main interests are dairy, equestrian sport, animal health, business, environment and grassland, and also people management, but I write across all sectors.”
As a current Nuffield Scholar, Anna is exploring whether the UK dairy industry can improve the ethics of dairy calf management while retaining profitability, and says she is interested in global agriculture having achieved an MSc in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.
Anna wanted to join the Guild, she adds, to meet more people in the industry and make professional connections.
Quick-fire Q&A with Anna Bowen
How did you get to where you are today?
I always had an interest in writing, and during my time at the Royal Agricultural College worked as a Student Ambassador, which gave me the opportunity to write a column for Three Counties Farmer. In 2013, I completed the Guild’s John Deere Training Award and during my MSc started writing on my own website, which led to some unpaid work writing for different platforms.
I built up a portfolio of work and won my first paid commission in 2018. Journalism and copywriting are parts of my broader career and I find that they all fit together symbiotically – I might work on a piece about technical improvement that complements advice I give as a consultant, or have a problem on my farm which leads me to a feature idea. I’ve been very lucky along the way to work with great editors who’ve given me a chance to write for them and led to ongoing relationships.
Describe an average day for you
My partner and I manage a 300-cow spring block calving dairy herd through a contract farming agreement, so depending on the time of the year and our staff rotas I might start the day milking cows or feeding calves, or I might drive to the yard where I keep my ex-racehorse and ride him. I work full time as a farm business consultant, so if I don’t have any farm visits I’ll be at my desk for 8.30am.
Over a tea break I could pitch an idea to an editor or get back to someone about an assignment, and then carry out an interview in my lunch break. After work finishes I’ll make a start on a feature or do some farm paperwork. This time of the year we’re busy calving, so my day almost always ends with checking the calving shed, separating calved cows and their calves, and feeding the calf. No day is the same and it’s the variety that keeps it interesting.
A lot of my writing and freelance admin is done on weekends when I’m not doing employed work, and I also make use of weekends and Bank Holidays for case study visits where possible.
Where’s the most interesting place you’ve visited as part of your job?
I’m currently in the middle of a Nuffield Scholarship and while travelling wrote a feature for Farmers Guardian in November 2021 about Denmark’s dairy beef industry and response to a national ban on euthanasia of healthy calves. Their policy came into place a year before a similar policy took effect in the UK and they have a fantastic dairy beef supply chain and programmes for breeding beef on dairy.
As part of the visit I went to a very large and well-managed calf rearing system making brilliant use of data, spoke to the processor Danish Crown about their pathways for dairy beef, and had a run through of the latest genetic science and breeding strategies with Viking Genetics. It was a great opportunity to learn about what can be achieved, how to do it to a gold standard, and share that story with UK farmers.
How untidy is your desk?
Shamefully messy, but I usually know where everything is. My dog eats pens as a hobby (Bic four colour ballpoints are his favourite) so I’m constantly trying to remember not to leave them in his reach.
Tell us something not many people know about you?
I’m allergic to horses and to giraffes.
What’s your favourite biscuit?
I can’t eat gluten; GF Hobnobs are a worthy substitute.
Where did you last go on holiday?
The pandemic and then focussing on Nuffield travel mean I haven’t been on a 100% holiday for a few years, but on my final Nuffield trip I took a couple of days off while staying near Sydney. Snorkelling off Manly Beach and seeing wobbegong carpet sharks and nurse sharks was a real highlight.
Tea or coffee?
This won’t go down well with everyone, but for me it is Earl Grey tea with lots of milk.
All members can be contacted via the Guild’s Farming Media Centre online directory.