FOR their birthday, many young girls would ask for the latest smartphone or perhaps a piece statement jewellery, but for farmer Gemma Common all she wanted to celebrate her big day was her own pedigree Limousin heifer.

After graduating from Newton Rigg College in Penrith, completing two apprenticeships in agriculture, specialising in environmental and land-based sectors, twenty-six-year-old Gemma has become the fourth generation to farm at Low Ardley in Hexhamshire, joining her father Graham and grandfather Thomas, tending the 650 Texel ewes, and 130 breeding Limousin cross cows living on the 500 acres.

She was given her first sheep at eight-years-old – two pure bred Texels – and has been honing up her livestock managing skills ever since, evident through her large collection of trophy’s and titles she’s acquired since.

Twice she has taken home the title of Young Farmers’ Champion at Hexham Mart’s Christmas prize show and sale – both for her homegrown Limousin cross heifers. Gemma also took the reserve champion trophy in the Texel class at Alston Show, and was awarded champion and overall champion at Allendale Show for her pure-bred Texels.

Not only have her beasts caught the judge’s eye in the past, but her shrewd buying skills have not gone unnoticed either, after she came third in this year’s Hexham Mart’s Over Wintering Young Farmers’ Competition, having sold her heifer for £1,040 after having originally bought it for £800.

“Its just nice to be recognised for your hard work,” Gemma said. “I’m not much of a competitive person, I’m more concerned with topping my personal best, so I suppose I’m usually in competition with myself rather than with other people.

“My goal right now is to beat my current highest tup sale so far of £1,400, so I’m looking forward to the upcoming show and sales.”

Last year, Gemma took her showing experience into the ring as a judge with her father at the Hexham Mart September show and sale.

“It was a really proud moment,” Gemma said. “Especially standing there next to my dad. It was a tough choice as it was a good turn out on the day, but I’ve learnt from competing in the past that each judge has a unique preference, and a different idea to what a winner looks like, so judged on what I liked personally.”

This year, Gemma been asked to judge the Texel category solo at Eastgate Sheep Show in Weardale, which will be the first time she will be judge solo.

“It’s a whole new experience,” Gemma said. “So I’m a slightly nervous, but also really excited about it.

“I couldn’t believe I was asked, someone must have thought I have done a good job in the past and nominated me, so that’s a great feeling.

Looking to the future, Gemma said all she wants is to carry on running the farm, and continuing her father’s legacy.

“I want to keep making him proud,” she said. “And continue to build on what he’s done, just like he did for his father before.

“We have a great relationship, and there is no one else I could imagine working alongside.

“My mum is always saying that you’ll never find one of us without the other a few steps behind.”

Preparations are currently being taken at Low Ardley to become more environmentally stable, in line with the new public goods and agriculture policy.

These new additions include the reconstruction of sustainable dry stone walls, hedge planting, and most recently building farm ponds, which help provide a habitat for a wide variety of local wildlife.

For Gemma however keeping the farm as eco-friendly will not mean sacrificing the high quality food and welfare standards the family currently prioritize.

In the face of Brexit, and the change it will bring, Gemma’s approach is to take one day at a time.

“It’s a tense time, as there is a lot of speculation amongst farmers about Brexit,” she said. “But I think that it’s pointless to worry or guess about what the future holds when nothing is set in stone.”

When she isn’t on the farm, Gemma spends time with the other members of Whitley Chapel’s Young Farmers’ Club, which she has been involved with for over a decade, but her time will be up this year as she reaches the cut-off age of 27.

“I’ve had a good run with the club,” she said. “And whether I’m a member or not, I’m still part of the young farmers’ community.”