Jo Edwards is director and rural surveyor at rural property and estate agency specialists PFK, which has six offices across Cumbria. Jo has been working for PFK since 2005 and was appointed as a director at the beginning of August. She lives in Glenridding.


She says: "I grew up in a farming family in Leicestershire. My father was a farm manager on a mixed arable and sheep farm which also had a large soft fruit business. It was very hands-on growing up and everybody mucked in.

I wanted to remain working in something with a rural background. It was what I grew up with and I’ve always enjoyed working outside even though, these days, I do spend a lot of time at my desk.

I went to Harper Adams agricultural college to study Rural Enterprise and Land Management and did my placement year at Roxburghe Estates in Kelso in the Scottish Borders. I graduated during the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 and there weren’t many jobs around at that time because there was a lot of uncertainty about the future of the rural economy and how long the outbreak would last.

Then, out of the blue, I got a call from Roxburghe Estates asking me if I would go back and work for them, which I duly did and took my RICS professional exams whilst I was there and became a fully qualified land agent. In 2005 I joined PFK and I’ve been here ever since.

When I started work at PFK the Single Farm Payment Scheme was just being rolled out and was a major change for the agricultural industry, with the move away from production based subsidy payments to area based payments. Eighteen years later and we are now going through the biggest change in the agricultural industry for several generations.

The government are phasing out the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and are gradually rolling out Environmental Land Management. The reduction that farmers will see in their BPS this year is a 35 per cent reduction on their 2020 payment and next year it will be a 50 per cent reduction. People are looking for other alternative income streams because, as with everything, the costs of running a farm have shot up.

The changing face of agriculture has been very difficult recently. From a business perspective you can deal with all eventualities if you know what is coming, but we have had very little detail about future support and schemes until recently which has made providing advice very difficult. The recent publication of more detailed information about the future of countryside stewardship schemes and the sustainable farming incentive have been greatly welcomed.

I've spent quite a lot of time recently talking with people about the options. We do now know what they can apply for and people are looking long and hard at their costs and ways of streamlining their businesses and diversification. There's new information coming out every single day and we have to keep up with all the changes.

As well as dealing with BPS and stewardship schemes I deal with property valuations and sales among many other things. On the sales side we’re probably dealing with a more diverse range of purchasers. When I first came to PFK you were selling agricultural land to farmers. Now you've got a vast array of people who are looking to purchase agricultural land. People are buying it for amenity value, tree planting and offsetting carbon, to try and comply with nutrient neutrality, or investment and not just for farming.

Farmers are busy people, looking after their livestock and their crops and there aren't enough hours in the day to keep up with every regulation and every other change that comes. It's our job to keep on top of it and then give them the advice they need.

I'm dealing with like-minded people most of the time, they're a great bunch. We all have a common interest in the agricultural world and there's always a different challenge. You never quite know what's going to walk in the door next.

Glenridding is a beautiful place to live and I like to get out and about in the countryside walking with my dog. I’m the secretary to Mungrisdale Swaledale sheep show and deal with the entries for Patterdale sheepdog trials and I am involved with the rural community as much as possible.

Becoming a director of PFK has been an ambition for me for a long time and I’m looking forward to taking more of a role in the company direction for the future."