No farmer can control the price of wheat, so you are at the mercy of global markets,’ says former money manager Graham Birch.
It’s common to hear of high-flying professionals deciding to make a career change. What’s not as common is to go from managing $40 billion in assets to running your own farms across 2,300 acres in the English countryside.
But that’s what Graham Birch did, swapping a leadership role at investment behemoth BlackRock in London for a life as a farmer. He went from poring over price data in commodity markets to analyzing satellite images of cropland — and now sells milk, oats and other foodstuffs produced at his farms in the southwest England county of Dorset.
The leap from fund manager to farmer is a big one, but one thread runs along Birch’s path: his affinity for commodities. The Londoner ran funds that invested in gold and other metals while working as head of BlackRock’s natural-resources investment team. He purchased his first farm along with his wife, Margaret, in 2007.
“I did start to develop some interest in agriculture while at BlackRock. It became a small obsession of mine,” Birch, 57, said in an interview with MarketWatch. “I became involved in looking at the science of farming. And that’s what we apply on our farms,” said Birch, who left BlackRock.