When Staintondale Country Market makes its quarterly appearance next Saturday, Stephen and Kathy Bushell will once more be selling their Dexter beef and Wiltshire Horn lamb.
It may be one of Yorkshire’s smallest and least known country markets but it is one of the most loved.
Staintondale only has a population of just over 340 and its market was initiated by a local, Jean Guyler, six years ago to raise funds for the village hall.
“There’s always a friendly atmosphere and it attracts people from far and wide,” said Kathy Bushell.
The Bushells aren’t your everyday rural couple. Stephen was a nurse at Leeds General Infirmary and Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds. They lived in Armley and the nearest they came to farming was running an allotment plot. Lynne never imagined they would become farmers.
“Stephen had inherited some money and we were looking at smallholdings around Leeds. To my mind we were just going to go up maybe one notch from having an allotment to having somewhere that we could have some hens and maybe a goat. Stephen found this farmhouse with an acre of land and the remoteness appealed.”
Broadhead Farm runs to 50 acres and is found between Dalby and Wykeham Forests in Troutsdale. The Bushells arrived in 2000 and events soon conspired towards their farming future.
“Stephen took our children to Thornton-le-Dale Show. When he returned he said that he might have done something stupid. He’d bought a cow – a Dexter – with calf at foot as well as being in-calf, from Ann Gates of Low Carr Farm, Kirby Misperton. And that’s how it started.”
They soon learned their own lessons about keeping animals.
“One of the first things you learn about cows is that they like to be around other cows and that they’re easier to manage if you give them what they want,” said Stephen. “I realised that we needed to work towards a larger herd and today with followers we have around 35 cattle on the farm including 12 breeding cows. We have our own bull and a cow that’s a Dairy Shorthorn X Dexter to provide our own milk. The Dexter breed is a very slow growing animal as well as being the smallest beef breed. Ours normally go to slaughter at 24-30 months. Everything here is almost entirely grass fed and our customers tell us it’s the way beef used to taste.”
They kept the Wiltshire Horn breed out of a degree of necessity.
“The Wiltshire Horn is one of only two breeds that shed their own wool. The cost of getting someone to come here to shear so few was uneconomical, but they’re incredibly hardy and benefit from our permanent pasture. They’re also a very easy lambing breed and fantastic mothers. We have 16 breeding ewes and one tup. We take their progeny through to 17 months when they are regarded as hoggets rather than lambs and sell them as boxed lamb, as well as selling the boxed beef from the Dexters.
“Our primary motivation has always been to have a wildlife friendly farm with high animal welfare standards,” said Kathy. “The land is low quality in terms of growing any crops and some of it is fen land that is often under water but we have such a wide variety of flora and fauna. There’s a rare soldier fly that has been monitored here for years and there have been 14 species of butterfly recorded. The marsh helleborine orchid also grows here.”
Stephen and Kathy have three daughters - Sonya, 18, Ruth, 17, and Winifred, 13 - and they will be out in force at Staintondale Village Hall next Saturday.
Pauline Lloyd, who helps run the market, said: “We only have 13 stalls but they fill our village hall and it provides a wonderful opportunity for local producers whether they are selling meat, cheese, fish, vegetables, bread, fruit or flowers. We also have craft stalls but we try to make sure that at least half the stalls are food oriented. This next country market will see us move into our sixth year and it has developed into a great social occasion.”