TENBURY WELLS, Herefordshire
Beef & hazelnuts
BEEF & HAZELNUTS, HEREFORDSHIRE/WORCESTERSHIRE: Ian farms 600 acres (243 hectares) on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border. Underley Farm has around 900 dairy-cross cows, which it feeds as much as possible from its own pasture. The pasture is underplanted with herbal leys which provide nutrition to the soil and therefore minimise the amount of fertilisers the farm needs to buy in. It’s also intercropped with peas and barley which provide high-protein feed for the animals. In summer, the cattle are fed high quality silage made from forage on land which is rotationally grazed to avoid compacting its soils. “Our low input system means we can reduce the amount of feed concentrate we need to buy in, and will hopefully help move the farm towards being carbon neutral,” says Ian.
Recently Ian wanted to diversify away from red meat, and after plenty of head-scratching plumped for hazelnuts. He planted gradually 15 acres (6 hectares) with nut trees and now has an orchard. The trees are planted well away from hedgerows and hungry squirrels. Clover is planted between the trees, providing nutritious grazing in summer and autumn for a couple of hundred chickens and turkeys that are housed in mobile huts that Ian moves daily. The birds’ droppings provide valuable nitrogen-rich fertiliser too.
Ian took over running Underley Farm after taking a degree in agriculture at the University of Reading. “I genuinely feel like the luckiest man alive,” he says. “To be born and brought up in the countryside, with the opportunity to then run the family farm is something I will never take for granted. I’m now the very proud father of two young daughters, and it’s no coincidence I’ve become serious about sustainability since they’ve come along”.
Mental health. “Farmers work an average of 68 hours a week, in comparison to the national average of 38. I’m no different. However, the to-do list always seems to expand and I find myself feeling as if I should be doing more. Since I’ve become a father, I have found it incredibly difficult to balance being a full-time farmer and the kind of father I want to be. The underlying feeling of guilt when I’m working long hours and I feel as I should be at home is tough to take, but if I spend more time at home, the list gets longer and the guilt returns. So, I’m learning to cut myself some slack, work smarter but ensure my children always come first.”
National Farmers Union member, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) beef and lamb monitor farm (studying carbon neutrality)
Interviewed about red meat, and the farm’s steps to reduce carbon emissions and increase biodiversity, by Evan Davis on Radio 4’s PM. Written for, and been featured in, Farmers Weekly