The farm is in a beautiful area and as we followed the road parallel to the river, we were greeted by 4 boisterous barking dogs and BANG I was in Border Collie heaven! My family are obsessed with border collies and appreciate that whilst they’re a clever working dog, they are also slightly potty!
We kicked off the day in the Education Room, where Ian & Emma gave us a ‘potted history’ of their family, who had farmed there for nearly 500 years. They are an organic farm and still use traditional farming methods.
Ian talked about organic and non-organic commercial farming and I found all the stuff about their approach to animal welfare really interesting. Whilst some of the ways they choose to farm might take a little bit more time and cost a little bit more money, for them it’s all about their passion
I asked Ian & Emma all about the wildlife at the farm and surrounding area; they said they farm with wildlife in mind and have a rich, diverse and healthy eco system. There’s spring flowers poking through, rare orchids in warmer months, curlews and lapwings feeding in the fields and there are protected biological heritage areas too with wildflower meadows, which all helps bees to do their thing and pollinate crops.
The Cows – Our farm tour started with the cows, which are Old English Shorthorns, a traditional UK dairy cow. In summer, they are free to access the pasture and graze on the seasonal plants and I can tell you they produce some beautiful, creamy milk. Their cows produce a natural amount of milk rather than being made to produce more (in commercial farming). They live a natural life and without any traumas and dramas – like being hit by lightening – they can live to a really old age, their oldest cow is 21 !
So, here’s some science bits I heard all about, which is great ‘cos it links to what I’m learning at school:
Usually, I drink pasteurised milk this means – a process that kills bacteria by heating the milk to preserve it and make it safe
Homogenised milk is – where the cream is evenly distributed rather than settling to the top
Some of Emma’s Organic Dairy milk is raw, which means it isn’t pasteurised or homogenised or put simply, it hasn’t been fiddled with!! It’s milk which is straight from the cow and as nature intended. The milk contains loads of healthy stuff, not to mention that the real white stuff tastes great – the more processes milk has to go through, the poorer the taste.
Emma explained that when the cows are poorly, they rarely need to see a vet. Instead, they are led to the herb meadow, where the cows ‘sort out their own natural drugs’ by grazing on nature’s anti-biotics #CleverCows!
As the raw milk isn’t pasteurised the parlour, the cows and the milking equipment has to be squeaky clean. Combine this with the time and patience Emma puts in – it takes 3 hours to milk the cows and that’s twice a day – that’s 365 days a year, that’s some hard work!
The milk travels through all these pipes, tubes and pumps and ends up in the room next door where it is bottled and refrigerated ready for the customers, like those from Organic North, who then deliver it to shops for us to buy. Boom – from farm straight onto our cereal
Pigs – We headed up the main stretch to look at the pigs; they are mainly Oxford Sandy and Black pigs which Ian said are great for bacon and sausage (I agree with this – we bought some sausage from their Farm Shop and they were delicious); they are flavoured with fresh herbs grown on the farm too. There were pigs of all ages in the barn and ‘I cudda sneaked one under my arm and took it home’, they were so cute.
We asked about where the farm animals are slaughtered; Ian explained that they are taken to a local abattoir (the less miles they travel, the less stress on the animal), then butchered at the farm and the meat is then sold at the farm shop.
Sheep – The sheep are Hampshire Downs providing rich lamb – we bought a leg of lamb and my mum made a roast dinner with it #yummy!
Horse – There’s a huge horse, which the family use for leisure to pull a cart (when they get a rare break) – what great fun going to the pub in a horse & cart
Chickens – Their chickens have a great time laying their eggs near the recently planted orchard.
Gazegill Education Project
My Mum’s gonna write this bit, ‘cos it’s her bag:
I’ve worked in care for over 20 years and more recently in local food, so I found the Education Project at the farm really interesting. The project is set up as a Community Interest Company (CIC), which is a great business model for ‘not for profit’ community organisations. The care farming approach offers a great alternative to traditional day services for vulnerable people, including those with mental health problems, autism and learning disabilities.
People who attend can work on the farm or do a bit of horticulture in the polytunnels, where salad crops, herbs and edible flowers are grown. The raised beds are at a perfect height for those with mobility problems too. The jobs on the farm all help improve a person’s independent living skills, self-esteem, confidence and health & well-being.
A ‘green cabin’ stands outside in another field, which is available for carers of those with dementia – again, it’s just such a fantastic resource.
I’ve been to similar projects up and down the country and I have to say it’s one of the best examples I’ve ever come across.
Somehow Ian and Emma have found enough energy to come up with some great plans for the future, many of which will happen this year:
- They include a café made from ‘Green Oak’ offering some of their delicious produce.
- A heritage room with the history of the family, farming methods and old farming equipment and machinery on display.
- A bigger farm shop
What I learnt was that, whilst farming is extremely hard, physical work, you also have to be continually ‘on it’. Always thinking about the land, the animals and at the end of the day, how to make sure there’s some money coming in. Ian told us this is called sustainability – it’s a big word and a bit hard for us kids to understand, but I kind of got it.
I was really impressed with Ian and Emma’s caring and passionate approach to farming and for their generous time in showing us the farm. It gave me a great understanding of where our food comes from, which I think is really important – cheers guys, here’s a video of your fantastic farm
So I’m gonna leave you with some pictures of the dogs, because you can never have enough pictures of border collies!
Have a good week folks – let’s hope Storm Doris doesn’t pay us another visit!