In the family

Mike Sims finds out how a family of brothers juggle demanding full-time jobs with running their 80-acre family farm in Buckinghamshire

Farming is a busy operation, but for four industrious brothers it’s only part of their work as they juggle weighing lambs and vaccinating calves with fighting fires and investigating crimes.

The Brinklows run an 80-acre farm in north Buckinghamshire and also have separate and demanding full-time jobs – as a police dog handler, a police officer in a firearms team and two firefighters.

The schedule of shifts and unpredictable hours is hectic, but the brothers – who also have seven children and a dozen dogs between them – have found a rhythm balancing some of the most dangerous professions, says PC Jason Brinklow. He says: “It’s really busy, but the different hours we keep does work for the farm, as there’s always someone around to cover early mornings, evenings and weekends. Our diaries can be all over the place, yet you get used to it and between us it seems to work well. It becomes the norm, though when we tell people what we do they think we’re nuts.”

PC Jason Brinklow and PD Cass photo credit - Jason Bye.jpg
PC Jason Brinklow with firearms support dog Cass. Photo credit - Jason Bye

A career in the force

Jason has worked for Thames Valley Police for nearly 20 years, including as a dog handler for the last four years, covering the force’s three counties as well as Hampshire through its joint operations unit.

During that time, he and his four-legged colleagues have been recognised for their courageous work. Last year the 38-year-old was honoured with a Police Federation bravery award – along with his sidekick Cass, a German Shepherd firearms support dog – after being subjected to a violent attack by two men in Banbury, Oxfordshire, while on patrol. His handcuffs and radio were wrestled from him as he was kicked from behind during the assault after responding to reports of a fight, leaving him with a severely bruised back and whiplash.

But with the assistance of Cass, he managed to stop them getting away and kept the pair on the scene until back-up arrived to make the arrest. The Police Federation, which represents 4,000 rank and file officers across Thames Valley, said PC Brinklow displayed “real courage”

PC Jason Brinklow receiving his bravery award.JPG
PC Jason Brinklow receiving his bravery award

He was also recognised at a commendation ceremony in April after he and Cass responded to reports of a fight involving knives in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. They tracked down the stab-wounded victim and administered first aid before the ambulance arrived.

Jason says: “It’s an honour to receive the recognition, but it’s all part of the role.”

It’s a far cry from his family’s Grounds Farm, which produces high-quality livestock, including pork, beef and lamb. The farm’s main business is contract-rearing pigs on a bed and breakfast system. The farm is also run by firefighters Phil and Aaron, as well as firearms officer and Phil’s identical twin Paul, 35. Their children range in age from one to 12, and when they’re not on shift for the emergency services or with their young families, the farm work helps bring everyone together, says Aaron

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Aaron, Phil and Jason in the pig shed

Aaron says: “We all adore the farm, it’s been in the family for several generations and we grew up on it.

“But we knew it wouldn’t support all of us, so I followed our dad into the fire service. It’s a lot of work but I absolutely love it. It’s trickier at times like harvest, but if we’re all working we’ll text each other to see who can get up at the crack of dawn, or who can go up after their shift. And we’ve tried to automate as much as possible, so we don’t need 24/7 labour.”

There are some useful transferrable skills between the jobs. Aaron, who has been in the fire service for 17 years, adds: “Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations out there, so I can help with fire safety around the farm, from fertilisers to welding equipment, and that knowledge is a benefit.

“I can help with health and safety, and risk assessments, while Jason and Paul cover the security and crime prevention side of things. “Between us we have a lot of expertise and it all helps when it comes to Red Tractor as they want to see you comply with everything.”

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A farm 'team meeting'

Dogs are another common passion. Jason’s love for canines is shared by his brothers - they have 12 dogs in total - and this passion is set to make its paw print on the farm. Future diversification plans include developing a 1.5-acre dog walking paddock for the public to use, a project the CLA has offered advice on.

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Police dog Cass

Jason adds: “Dog ownership is rising and there’s a generation of dogs who haven’t had the opportunity to socialise or be trained. Plus with livestock worrying and the number of injuries caused by pets, I think there’s a real need for a paddock like this.”

Police dogs

Fergi the trainee in 2019.jpg

As well as Cass, Jason has Labrador Fergi, a victim recovery dog. While Cass tracks offenders, searches for missing people and helps with chase and detain, Fergi finds blood, teeth, bones and body parts even when they are buried or under water.

If the dog is right, training can be surprisingly short: “Fergi helps at crime scenes where people have tried to clean up and hide evidence. She can find blood you can’t see with the naked eye, which forensics can then use to build a full DNA profile, it’s phenomenal how dogs like her can find such a small sample.

“But they don’t need months and months of training if the right dog has been selected – it can be a matter of weeks.”