SMALLHOLDER, WORCESTERSHIRE: Kate farms a 15-acre (6-hectare) smallholding in the heart of Worcestershire with her partner Ali.
When they bought the land in 2009 it was just a field of barley stubble. They soon built up a business based on small-scale, outdoor pig production using traditional breeds, supplemented by free range laying hens, Christmas turkeys, bees for honey, and rare breed Ryeland sheep. They set up an on-farm butchery and shop, selling meat from their own livestock and fresh local produce.
Kate had a previous life in the city as a management consultant working for a big accountancy firm. She loved her work (implementing multi-million pound computer systems), but felt disconnected from nature, the seasons, a sense of community and ‘real food’. She started growing vegetables in the garden, reading smallholder magazines and going to agricultural shows. She bought some chickens and did a pig keeping course.
Eventually, Kate and Ali sold their house in Matlock in the Peak District and bought the field in Worcestershire near Kate’s parents. Kate did a part-time diploma in agriculture at Moreton Morrell agricultural college and started farming.
They built a barn, fenced the field, drilled a borehole for water and lived in a caravan. For the first eighteen months they relied on an old generator for power, then finally connected to the grid and installed solar panels.
The farm has been through big changes since then. Kate and Ali sold the retail business to a neighbouring farm with a shop and pick-your-own visitor attraction, enabling it to reach more customers. They have scaled back the livestock to just the sheep and bees, along with raising weaners for pork. Growing fruit and vegetables on an allotment scale is taking them towards their dream of self sufficiency.
Taking the smallholding to the next level requires funding, so Kate is doing some consultancy work back in the city. The pair are upgrading their solar system to power on-farm storage, which will help insulate them from rising energy costs. And they are installing a shop that they hope will give a better experience to customers collecting meat boxes, and are creating value-added products such as dry cured bacon and gammon.
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