Early starts have become the norm since returning to the family farm in EastSussex last autumn to learn the ropes from my parents. My alarm goes off at6am, I tend to snooze for 15 minutes before getting up to start my day.
Over a bowl of muesli and a cup of tea I check my schedule. I head next door to the main farmhouse for a catch-up with my parents and run through priorities on the farm. I then get into my work gear: farm overalls, Hunter Boots and flat cap and head up to the barn to make a start on stock work duties.
At the moment I am trying to get 12 Sussex young cows pregnant, so we can create our own, native breed meat brand. I check heat patches on the back of each animal to see if any have gone red, which shows the girls have been bulling (aka riding each other because they are on heat). I spot two red patches and call the AI (Artificial Insemination) man from the semen company we use and ask him to bring two pedigree Sussex straws.
I then get back to my daily chores of checking and feeding our herd of continental cross suckler cows and calves. Once I’ve finished the cattle work, I then jump in our pickup truck and drive a few miles down the road to the Pevensey Levels where our 213 Suffolk Mule ewes are grazing on 150 acres of Sussex Wildlife Ground. At this time of year the water levels are particularly high and the sheep share the marshland with an abundance of birdlife and from a distance it’s sometimes easy to miscount some of the swans for sheep! Doing a thorough sweep on foot I check all the dykes and try to get an accurate head count which can be quite challenging at times. I also make sure the flock have plenty of energy blocks and supplementary hay too.
Returning to the farm, it’s11 o’clockand time for a cup of coffee and a biscuit while I update the parents and hand over to them before getting ready to visit a prospective Bonativo supplier. A big part of my role as head farmer for Bonativo is finding new small producers and food makers to supply our online farmers’ market.
Splitting my time between the farm and London I try to meet at least two new suppliers every week. Today I’ve arranged an appointment with David and Marian Harding, local organic dairy farmers, who produce award-winning organic yoghurt under the brand name,Court Lodge Organics. I want to find out more about their product and explain how Bonativo can help expand their sales. With David and Marian happy to list their products on our site, I grab my camera and capture some shots of their pedigree Friesian Dairy cows out grazing the grass and arrange to pop back next time they are making yoghurt to take some pictures and video of the yoghurt-making team in action.
Back on the farm I have a quick sandwich and a coffee for lunch before helping Mum run some of our fat lambs through our sheep handling system to grade them ready for livestock market. Since moving back to the farm my plan is to sell the majority of our beef and lamb meat directly and increase our margin per animal. While this all takes time, I have done research and sent our lambs to be slaughtered at the local abattoir, I am confident we can achieve a higher return by selling as many of this year’s lambs directly from our farm.
With 15 lambs picked out for livestock market I return to my farm office and spend the next couple of hours on work e-mails and speaking to colleagues and suppliers on the phone. If I have time I instagram a picture from my day on the farm to my @indiefarmer account and post up a picture from court lodge organics on the @bonativo account. At5pmI have a group Skype call with the whole Bonativo London team – we run through updates on new suppliers, logistics, customer feedback and discuss plans for a new marketing campaign.
My evening is spent finishing up emails for Bonativo and Indie Farmer, while in front of the wood burner. We usually have a family meal, where we discuss everything from our two spaniels and sheep dogs, to the work of the day and the latest House of Cards episode we just watched.
For more information, visitBonativo.co.uk