As a 8 year old youngster my father used to joke with me and say “What, not another letter,” as I was in the habit of writing to various companies for information on new products, hence I started writing at quite a young age. Vocabulary is very important when trying to make articles read well and I got to widen my word base at secondary school. We had a very good library and I can recall a sign that said “Read plenty – after you leave school it’ll be too late !”

I took up journalism when I was 52 after working as a lecturer at Bishop Burton College (formerly Bishop Burton College of Agriculture) in East Yorkshire UK..

As well as lecturing I managed the College pig unit. In 1987 it was decided to upgrade the small 100 sow unit into something more in keeping with units in the area (In those days E.Yorkshire had the biggest density of pigs in all the UK ) and so a brand new farrow- to-finish 300 sow unit was built on a greenfield site. All on borrowed capital no less! The cash flow peaked at £800,000, a considerable sum in those days especially for a college. No wonder I’m bald and my Principal went grey !

All the gestating sows & gilts were loose housed from service and fed through ESFs, quite new in those days. In addition the unit had a full length viewing passage so that visitors could see the pigs through glass. This feature has since been copied all over the world. The unit was an excellent teaching facility in particular for the College pig course students.

My former students are scattered world wide, as far afield as Japan and I am proud to say that two of them have done very well with Maple Leaf Foods, formerly Elite Swine Inc.

As an academic I was writing a few articles plus the college always had a booth at the UK Pig Fair so I had gradually acquired a considerable number of commercial contacts. My career as a journalist started with the UK based Pig Industry magazine, edited by Brian Chester. The magazine’s content was mainly comprised of pig farm reports which I got to write more and more of, with companies that were associated with the farms buying advertising space.Working for Brian took me all over the UK – in the days when motor travel was quite enjoyable , unlike today.

Being a keen amateur photographer – I had got my GCE A level Photography at night school – meant I had good pictures to go with my texts. I had contacts with Peter Best, who is known throughout the world as former editor of Pig International (sadly now defunct,) for several years and Peter was a great help to me. I will never forget that as a rookie hack Peter took time out to take me round a big international trade fair and to introduce me to a host of industry movers and shakers who would become valuable future industry contacts.

Like many freelancers, I’ve moved over from industry and had no formal training in journalism but over the years you develop a style and fortunately mine seems to go down well with readers, subconsciously helped by the accumulation in my mind of all those many novels read whilst at school. I think being a lecturer for 25years has also helped me as a writer. Many of my students were not particularly academic, preferring to be out on the farm rather than being sat behind a desk. I like to think that I developed the knack of putting over complex concepts in a simple manner and I try to do the same in my articles. It’s always difficult trying to get the balance right , not being too simplistic yet trying not to baffle my readers with science.

Whilst writing about pigs is my first love, I enjoy writing about cattle, poultry and fish. My knowledge of animal nutrition means I can also write for feed magazines as well. In an age when so many people hate their jobs it’s great to be doing a job that I love. Things get a bit harder with advancing years but research is showing that retirement may not be the panacea once thought it was.Keeping active mentally and physically slows ageing .

On the latter, I took up the sport of triathlon age 58 and am still going strong – although the aches and pains seem to be more frequent. Competing for Great Britain in Penticton BC last August I was delighted to finish 5th in my 5 year age group in the 3km swim/ 120km bike event. Rest assured, a few glasses of the excellent local wine went down very easily afterwards !

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing. I wish I had taken up journalism much earlier in my life but I am appreciative of the 20 years that I’ve had as a writer and plan on carrying on as long as I can drive a car, climb aboard a plane and bash a keyboard !

Stuart Lumb writes for Prairie Hog Country under a pen name Norman Crabtree. •