We moved here in 2007 from a tenanted farm. Our dream was to live self sufficiently and run our own business. When we arrived there were just three bare fields, full of grass, thistles and rushes. There was no road, no water supply, no power. We had a lot of work to do and people told us we’d never get anything to grow in the heavy clay soil.
We started off with a shipping container to keep our tools in and to shelter from the worst of the weather. Our first job was to prepare the land, and put it through the organic conversion process, which takes two years. This meant drawing up plans for crop rotation as well as digging some of the many ditches for drainage and seeking to clear and improve the soil.
Christmas Farm really began to be productive when we started to add animals. We started with sheep and pigs, followed by hens. We invested in our first Dexter cattle in 2010, and added poultry. We’re now at the limits of what we can produce on this land and still give our animals the space they need to thrive. We’ve come a long way from three wet, and weedy fields. Physically and emotionally it’s been extremely hard work to get to where we are now, but we wouldn’t change a thing. And we’ve still got plans for the future.
With the security of owning the land, rather than having to renew our tenancy every year, we can make long term plans. That means investing for the long term in things like cattle, or planting trees that take time before we see any harvest from them. As long as we have customers for the box scheme and they want food each week, we can keep investing in producing the best that we can.
We’ve learned how best to work the land here and refined our original rotation system to grow things in small areas, surrounded by fences, to protect them from the wind. The animals help make the grass and drainage systems work better, and over the past 10 years, we’ve begun to understand where things might grow.