This summer, my wife Ellie and I will be making the move to Duffield’s Farm where I start working as the Farm Manager on the third Jamie’s Farm.
I’m lucky enough to be involved with much of the construction, development and layout of the farm, alongside the more experienced Jamie’s Farm staff. Using tradesmen from the local community is also hugely important to us, and I would encourage anyone local reading this to get in touch if they’d like to help with the development of this amazing farm. As well as the local community, it’s very important that the vulnerable young people who visit the farm will be involved in the creation of such an important place and they feel they have contributed to make it successful for us, them and many other young farmers in the future. So, although lots of the elements of the farm are planned, they won’t be executed until the young people are there to get stuck in!
So, to the farm:
I hope to manage the farm on a small-scale traditional system. Which means, including, and developing with, modern farming techniques, but not losing site of the joy and satisfaction that the simplest of farming tasks can deliver: rather than moving hay bales with tractors, I’ll be getting the young people to move them with a combination of graft, team work and wheel barrows.
On the livestock side we will have a main flock of Lleyn ewes and a small flock of Dorset sheep. This means we can spread lambing out over the year so more children can get hands on with this magical time. At our other two farms we start lambing in deepest, darkest winter! These flocks will be crossed with some amazing quality rams of various types until we can find what suits the farm best.
We will have a small suckler herd of Beef Shorthorns, famed for their quality beef and gentle nature. This herd will include a very impressive bull, who has come all the way from the Lake District to join us. Included in our cattle herd will be a lovely Jersey house cow for producing milk, the most traditional of farmyard animals and now a rare pleasure. No doubt we’ll be in competition with the other farms to make the best cheese, butter and yoghurt with her milk for the young people to enjoy with their meals. We will also have a variety of pigs and will have our own breeding sows producing piglets for sale and meat for the table.
I hope to develop a poultry area where we can incubate and rear our own type of eating and laying birds so that children can see a complete process in the precious time they spend on the farm. This will take them right through from collecting eggs, incubation, candling, rearing, butchery, cooking and eating.
Another venture I would like to explore and a first for Jamie’s Farm is the rearing of goat kids that are surplus from the goat dairy industry. Goat meat is becoming more and more popular and is a great source of low cholesterol meat; they are also incredibly entertaining and mischievous. With all this is hope we can develop a good relationship with a local butcher, supplying not only ourselves but also supplying the local community with amazing quality and well reared meat.
Many other animals will be found on the farm that you would expect to see in a traditional farmyard setting: a terrier for keeping the rat numbers in check, a sheepdog for helping us tend the flocks, a couple of horses (Paddy and Sam) that the children will get a chance to work with, geese, ducks and some doves!
There will also be a large emphasis on conservation and how this interlocks with a quality and healthy farm. This means lots of hands-on work developing and managing habitats for wildlife, birds, insects and bees. I really hope the result of this is that we can instil a message that looking after and being proud of your own environment, wherever it maybe, can have gains both personally and worldly that can inspire and focus talented young minds. We are very lucky that the farm is already rich in wildlife and in a beautiful and ecologically important setting that cannot fail to motivate and reward.
Finally, the most important part of all this is creating a warm welcome, a helpful, kind community feel, quality and delicious home produced food, beautiful and safe surroundings, fun times exploring and trying new things and good old fashioned back-to-the-earth work. These are just the a taster of all the magical things I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by, and I feel anybody who doesn’t get a chance to experience this is missing out.
Jamie’s Farm is an incredibly interesting, rewarding and awe-inspiring charity to be part of, and enables me to share with some of the most vulnerable young people in society some of the very best opportunities and memories that I feel are important in life. It’s my job to make this a reality for as many kids as possible and give them the very best farming experience.
Written by Dan Smith: Farm Manager, Monmouth
Dan comes from a background in countryside maintenance and farming, running his own business in these areas in the Cotswolds. Dan has already started with us, helping to get the farm ready to receive groups, whilst having the opportunity to spend time at Jamie’s Farm Bath and Hereford, to learn the programme and understand our unique approach.