Frankie Guy

Frankie Guy

Warminster, Wiltshire

Arable & beef

BEEF CATTLE, ARABLE, WARMINSTER: Frankie and her family farm 600ha of land owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Salisbury Plain, which means farming alongside – and sometimes in the middle of – military exercises. Tanks, helicopters, and escaped cattle are par for the course. They are in a number of environmental schemes and have both organic and low-input systems.

About five percent of the farm is on an Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy (giving a right to succession) with the rest on a grazing licence. About 300ha is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The entire farm is managed under either the Countryside Stewardship Scheme or rules from MoD ecologists. The management of the SSSI land focuses on conservation grazing and protection of archaeological sites. The remainder of the farm has more productive grassland; the management approach there is more akin to regenerative agriculture. The holding is 93% organic grassland, the remainder is conventional arable.

Before taking on the farm, Frankie studied French at University College London before working primarily in recruitment in Bristol, London and New Zealand for about six years. The more time she spent at a desk the more she wanted to return to the farm, but her parents did not think there was a secure and safe future in agriculture.

Fortunately, she won them over and Frankie has been working with them for the past six years. They keep 120 suckler cows - mostly Aberdeen Angus x South Devon – plus youngstock. The cattle live outdoors year-round and are moved from pasture to pasture (contained by temporary electric fences) every week. It is an extensive system with all animals entirely pasture-fed. The youngstock are moved to Frankie’s non-organic neighbour’s farm for six months before they are sold as non-organic stores at around 22 months old.

A neighbour carries out the work on the arable land. Historically the farm has produced a mix of spring barley and herbal leys. Under Frankie’s new Stewardship scheme, the entire arable area will be used for herbal leys, pollinator plots and winter bird food plots for the next five years.

Until 2012, her parents ran The Real Meat Company, which was one of the very first high welfare, ethical meat producers. The family continues to maintain these principles and Frankie hopes to resurrect the name and sell beef direct to the public one day.

She also wants to diversify the farm, to offer a service or learning opportunities to the local community, but bureaucracy within the MoD has prevented her from putting this plan into action. Being a tenant, dependent on environmental payments, Frankie finds the relative powerlessness over her destiny to be extremely isolating.

But combining the farm with occasional freelance work in photography and website design allows her to blend her interests in animals, the environment, technology, nature, and education in a beautiful setting. “The fact that ‘Bring Your Dog to Work Day’ is every day is a bonus! It provides a level of emotional fulfilment and job satisfaction that you simply can’t get elsewhere,” she says. “It’s been a huge learning curve with many challenges along the way, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Contact Frankie

When she has time, Frankie enjoys photography, travel, weight training and sticking her nose in a good book.