James Airey will combine his love of both farming and politics when he begins his new career as a county adviser in Cumbria with the National Farmers Union (NFU) North West team.

The leader of the Conservative group on Cumbria County Council for the past eight years, James starts his new career chapter with the NFU next week.

He’s come close to becoming an MP in the county, running as a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party on four separate occasions in Barrow, Morecambe and Lunesdale, and twice in Westmorland and Lonsdale.

While James is calling time on a 23-year political career which began when he led the Conservative Group on Lancaster City Council for 10 years, his farming pedigree dates back further.

Before entering local politics, James was a partner in his family’s mixed farm in Kirkby Lonsdale for 20 years, looking after the sheep while brother John concentrated on the dairy side of the business.

His entrance into politics coincided with a move to Little Urswick, near Ulverston, with wife Caroline. They still live in the village today with son Owen.

They have a 70-acre small holding where they farm a flock of pedigree Suffolk sheep, a breed James has been involved with for 35 years.

The family have had many successes around the agricultural show circuit, winning many championships and prizes as far afield as the Great Yorkshire Show. The couple also have pedigree Texels and a small commercial flock for the early lamb market.

James said: “I am ready for a change and a fresh challenge. I’ve wanted to get back to my farming roots for a while and I consider myself very fortunate that this opportunity presented itself at a time of seismic challenges and unprecedented support for the industry. I enjoy helping fellow farmers so being able to do that professionally on behalf of the NFU is something I’m relishing.”

James is a past chairman of Cumbria YFC and was a member of the Lunesdale branch which is no longer in existence.

NFU Cumbria county chairman Ian Bowness said: “James is very experienced and from his work as a councillor brings with him a wealth of knowledge and connections from other important parts of Cumbrian life which will be invaluable. He has an extensive rural knowledge and will be a great asset for the team.”