BEEF, GLOUCESTERSHIRE: Matt and his wife Laura rear pedigree Hereford cattle on their 190-acre (77-hectare) National Trust farm on the Sherborne Estate in the Cotswolds. The suckler (breeding) cows and beef herd are 100% pasture-fed and certified under the Pasture for Life scheme.
Herefords are a resilient native breed that can survive outdoors all year round, and thrive on the farm's combination of herbal leys (mixed grasses, clover and herbs, planted to nourish the soil), permanent pasture, and historic parkland.
The farm has a small flock of sheep bred for meat. There are also plans to branch into free-range pastured egg production. Hens will be kept in a mobile house that will follow the cows so that the birds can eat some of the insects left behind in the cattle dung. The eggs will be sold in local village shops and farm shops. The meat is sold direct to customers via the couple's website.
Matt and Laura want to be a productive example of environmentally focused farming so they use sustainable farming practices such as mob grazing (where cattle are moved to fresh pasture frequently to maximise grass growth) and avoid artificial inputs, such as chemical fertilisers. The diverse pasture the cattle graze on has multiple benefits for cattle health and meat quality, as well as improving soils and providing balanced eco-systems for healthy insect and pollinator populations. Matt says he's seen an increase in insects and of birdlife, especially in winter when birds follow the cows as they graze home-grown hay outside.
He is proud of what he's done to increase biodiversity on the farm while producing stellar quality food that he sells direct to customers, and is keen to increase public awareness of how food is produced. “I am concerned when I see all livestock production tarred with the same brush by some elements of the media," he says. "The issues concerning farming and the environment are not as simple as is often portrayed.”
Matt and Laura are extremely invested in farming - both emotionally and financially - despite coming from an entirely different world. Matt previously worked in forensics and intelligence for Avon and Somerset police. On a joint career break they spent a year WWOOFing (working on organic farms) across the UK and Ireland. As a result, in 2014, Matt took a farm worker position on a 300-acre (121-hectare) organic farm in Eastleach, Gloucestershire and started studying part-time for a graduate diploma in Agriculture at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester. In 2018 he graduated and the couple secured their current farm tenancy.
Considering himself a agroecological farmer, Matt is focused on how land management can benefit nature and the wider environment. He believes that by increasing farmland biodiversity, building healthy soils and capturing carbon, he can produce the most sustainable and highest quality beef. He also believes it's important that consumers are interested in how and at what cost food is produced.
Employee and member of Pasture for Life (PFLA).
Local, national and agricultural press. Meet the Farmers podcast.