SHEEP & GOATS, NORTH WALES: Sam farms sheep and goats on 160 acres (64 hectares) on the banks of the River Elwy in Wales’ Vale of Clwyd. After starting the business in 2016, she built the farm up from scratch on land that her husband, Alex, inherited from his family.
The farm is made up of 60 acres (24 hectares) of ancient woodland and 80 acres (32 hectares) of permanent pasture, some of which is planted with trees and a small market garden.
As well as breeding a 100-strong flock of Welsh Mule ewes, Sam has around ten to 16 breeding goats. She sells the lamb and goat meat direct to customers. She also has a few milking goats and free range laying hens, and some beehives. She sells her eggs, honey and the farm’s vegetables through social media and her website.
Sam’s goal is to manage the land regeneratively, to encourage biodiversity and promote animal, plant and soil health. So she grazes her animals rotationally to avoid compacting or damaging soils, and uses dung from the animals to enhance the land’s fertility. She’s also planted hedgerows and trees, repaired riverbanks using willow tree trunks, and set up a Natural Flood Management project.
She’s encouraged by her results so far. “In one three-acre meadow, we found 40 species of plants,” she says. They included St John’s wort, wild basil, orchids and meadow saxifrage. She’s also spotted kingfishers, otters, bats and woodcock.
Sam's husband, Alex, is a full-time maths teacher so the day to day running of the farm is all down to her. A farm worker's daughter from near Brighton, agriculture is definitely in her blood, but North Wales is very different to Sussex. It has been a steep but fulfilling learning curve.
Sam has had an unusual journey into farming. Her Dad worked on the same dairy and arable farm in Sussex for many years. Her Mum was a contract shepherdess but both parents hoped Sam would find a different career from farming. Instead, she went from job to job, including a brief spell as a trainee veterinary nurse, but never settled at anything. Sam travelled and worked around the world and met Alex in Asia.
They moved back to the UK together in 2014 and only then did Sam discover that Alex had inherited a farm in North Wales from an aunt.
She says: "We went to see the place, Alex thinking that I would want to settle in Sussex near to my family. But almost instantly we found ourselves formulating a plan to create our home there. The house was being tenanted separately to the land and the buildings were in a state of neglect. It took over two years to patch up and repair all the old stone and slate buildings, but at least we could then happily house a limited number of small livestock over winter."
To help with cash flow while repairs were needed, Sam worked as a contract shepherdess on a few different beef and sheep farms and as a relief milker on a local dairy farm.
Sam sadly lost her dad, David, to cancer in 2014 when she was only a month into her first farming job – but not before he'd been able to share some advice which kept her smiling through the next five years of relief milking. He had been surprised but proud to see his daughter embarking on a new journey that followed in his farming footsteps.
Vice Chair of Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) Wales.
National radio and TV. Spoke about nature-friendly farming at Wales Real Food and Farming Conference 2022.