An 11-year-old schoolboy with autism who has become TV’s most wanted farming expert has received a helping hand from Europe’s top trailer maker.
Joe Trofer-Cook, from Billinghay, Lincoln, was miserable at school and finding learning a real battle when he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a farmer and has now built a thriving livestock enterprise from scratch.
The youngster, who was seven at the time and had been diagnosed with autism, dyslexia, memory problems and severe anxiety, began growing fruit and vegetables from a raised bed his granddad built and sold the produce from trolleys at the end of his driveway.
Soon, he had enough money to buy chickens to sell eggs and later three sheep which he kept on his grandmother’s land. Within a few months, he had saved enough for a tup so he could breed his own flock.
Within three years, the enterprise had grown beyond his wildest dreams, with Joe owning his own flock of 37 Pedigree 4 Horn Jacob and Ryeland sheep, two cows he bucket reared from calves called Rosie and Flower, 16 Lincolnshire Buff chickens which earned him Breed Champion at this year’s Rutland County Show and three rescue ducks.
He has also become one of the most sought-after farming experts on TV after regular appearances on shows such as Country File, Spring Time On the Farm and Channel 5’s This Week on the Farm while scooping countless best in show awards.
If this doesn’t keep him busy enough, the young farmer also travels around special schools and nurseries to share the benefits of animal therapy which has helped to calm his own anxiety.
Now the youngster, who invests everything he makes back into expanding his farm, has received a helping hand from his local Ifor Williams Trailers distributor, Scott Trailers, in Walcott, which has loaned him an IWT TA5G 8 livestock trailer for a year to help him move his animals around more efficiently.
Joe’s mum, Clare Trofer, 47, said: “We can’t express our gratitude enough, the Scotts are such a wonderful family to do this for us. It’s not just helping Joe to fulfil his dream, it’s helping us as a family too so it’s a win, win situation.
“Joe has a toy IWT trailer that Mr Scott gave him and keeps telling me when he’s a big boy he’s going to have his own IWT trailer! It’s amazing it’s happening for him already.
“Joe has 37 sheep now and the old trailer he has only holds three sheep. When we move them around it’s a two-day job! This will make our lives so much easier.”
Michelle Harper, a director at Scott Trailers, was only too happy to help.
She said: “Joe’s a confident and smart young man. He absolutely loves his animals and is now something of a local celebrity with his TV appearances.
“All through his journey, people have helped him out, giving him sheep and other things to help expand his business. We’re really proud to be one of them and helping this young man fulfil his dreams.
“We’ve known Joe and his family for a long time. They desperately needed a trailer to ferry the animals to all the shows every year. It’s a real privilege to help.
“He’s a role model for all children. You can do anything in life, nothing can stop you or stand in your way if you’re determined.”
Joe’s flair for farming has come as something of a surprise to his parents Clare and Adam, 44, who have two other children as well as Joe; Stan, six, and Ernie, five.
Clare works as a cleaner and Adam is a shot-blaster and sprayer. Both had no previous experience of farming but needn’t have worried as Joe learned everything himself.
“He thinks he’s Alan Sugar and is very driven,” admitted Clare.
“He works harder than many men ever will – I’m so proud of him with the issues he has had to overcome with his anxiety. He’s a clever little boy, he just learns in a completely different way and is getting quite a name for himself.
“There’s nothing more natural than what Joe is doing. This is how children learned many years ago.
“We had quads this year and had to bring the lambs in to bottle feed them every two hours. Joe got himself up at 4am and then told me his ewe Parsley was showing signs of lambing. Within 36 hours, we had seven lambs. He then fed the cows, had a wash, and went off on a school trip for the day!
“He’s learned to spin his own sheep’s wool. I couldn’t show him how to sheer a sheep – I nearly lost the tip of my finger! Joe’s had to learn everything himself.
“We went to an event last year so he could learn about lambing in case there were any problems. Then he went to Lancaster for sheep dog training and has now rehomed a six-month-old collie called Spud – she helps him so much at night with his anxiety.
“At the end of the day I’m a cleaner and Joe’s dad is a shot-blaster, this is Joe’s dream and he absolutely shines. We’re not in a position where we can buy Joe’s dream, he has to work for it himself.”
Lois Wynne, from Ifor Williams Trailers, described Joe as an inspiration.
She said: “We are really proud to be helping Joe build his farming dream at such a young age.
“It’s remarkable that at 11 years old, this young man knows exactly what he wants and isn’t afraid to put in the hard work to get there. He’s an absolute inspiration to all of us.
“Joe clearly has a long and fruitful future in this industry and we wish him every success. I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of him in years to come.”
Joe already has his own Facebook group called Joe’s Garden Patch with 1,600 followers from all over the world. His supporters donate handmade items like keychains, bug hotels and hand-crocheted cows so that he can sell them at shows and reinvest the profits into his business.
TV commitments aside, Joe’s now busy saving for his next investment – a lamb feeder – and preparing for summer on the road exhibiting at county shows. But Clare says he’ll always make time for his educational visits.
“Not only is farming his hobby but it’s therapy and makes his tummy ache go away,” explained Clare.
“This is why we applied for a performance licence so we could take the sheep to schools, nurseries and special schools. We know how much the animals have helped Joe and although we have full-time jobs, we make the time because for me this is very important.
“If you were to ask Joe, he would say school really interferes with his life! The school has been so supportive of him. We are so lucky they’ve been behind him. All he needed was support. I would love a lie-in or a holiday – that doesn’t happen anymore – but it’s all worth it.”