Farm of the Week: The sister doing it for herself with a farm shop and Airbnb in Bronte Country

Setting off new ventures has been the hallmark of a West Riding farming family for over 70 years.

Margaret Bamford still breeds horses on the farm

Margaret Bamford, the youngest of four children born to Norman and Lucy, is now the only member of the family at Law Farm in Southowram near Halifax since her brother Richard passed away six years ago.

Margaret has several business interests. She runs the farm, which includes a small suckler herd, pigs and pygmy goats; the farm shop and café, a potato wholesale business and more recently and in common with the family’s historic trend to launching something new, Airbnb accommodation.

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Margaret said she is happy with the way things are going and that she is by no means a one-woman band.

The farm shop has a butchery and bakery

“I don’t do everything by myself. I have a really good team of lovely people around me who are also good friends. Everybody is local and I’m enjoying it.

“The farm runs to 28 acres that are owned and there are another 100 acres that I share the rental with a neighbour for grazing and for making haylage to feed the cattle during winter. I cut about 40 acres of meadow haylage.

“My herd of suckler cattle includes Charolais-cross cows and a Belgian Blue-cross cow that are all put to the Salers bull that I bought from breeder Rachel Hallos. I get a multitude of different colour calves by having the variety in my herd.”

Margaret said the farm had always been home to hens, but that the pigs and pygmy goats are more an adornment for those visiting the farm shop today.

Margaret took over the family farm when her three brothers became butchers

“The pigs are Kune Kune and they enjoy jumping over the wall to greet people. I had just one but was then given five more. Customers and their children love them. It’s the same with the pygmy goats.”

Margaret said it was her father who set the ball rolling on new ventures before the family moved to Southowram.

“Dad’s interest in farming had come from working as a butcher at the Co-op in Cleckheaton. After coming back home from his time in the Merchant Navy toward the end of the Second World War he and mum bought a small farm in Oakenshaw.

“He started rearing Hackney horses as well as having cattle and started his own butchery business from a van doing rounds in the 1950s. He went on to buy a butcher’s shop in Shelf.

She has also spent time in New Zealand

“My three brothers and I were all born between 1949 and 1966, with me being the youngest, and we were all involved with the farm. Dad did really well with the Hackney horses. He was a well-known name in the breed and three years after he passed we had a horse that we had bred, that won at the Horse of the Year Show - Ingfield Black Prince.

“We had Hackneys right up until Richard passed away. I now have just two Warmbloods, one of which is getting on now but was bred by John Whitaker.”

Margaret’s three brothers all became butchers, but Margaret followed a different course. “I studied biology at Nottingham University and worked in agrochemicals for crop protection at ICI and Zeneca.”

Margaret said the next new business to emerge on the farm came way before her university days.

“Dad had died in 1977 at just 51 years old. Just before he died he had planted a field of potatoes. My brothers harvested them and began selling them door-to-door around the village.

“We had always sold eggs, so we had that connection with people already. The potato business then developed into buying potatoes in and selling on to fish and chip shops and corner shops.

“It’s still a side of the farm that is going strong today. We supply fish and chip shops in roughly a 30-mile radius from Wakefield to Manchester and buy our potatoes from farmers in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Pembrokeshire. It’s mainly the Sagitta variety.”

Margaret said when the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 occurred it brought with it the prospect of starting another new enterprise - Ingfield Farm Shop.

“We had always talked about opening a farm shop. There had been a lot of rundown buildings here when we had moved and in 2001 we managed to get a diversification grant to convert one into a farm shop.

“We then moved it to a bigger building in 2010. We now have the farm shop, the café and the butchery and deli. We sell as much local produce from others as we can. We’ve always had our own butchery, but also have a bakery with an excellent retired baker who has been baking for 50 years.

“During the various lockdowns and restrictions, and particularly at the start of the first lockdown in March last year I couldn’t get out of the shop, we were that busy.”

It was never written in stone that Margaret would come back to run the farm, firstly with her brother Richard and now on her own.

Margaret said she very nearly left behind her roots completely when she moved out to New Zealand around a decade ago.

“I had fancied emigrating and I lived over there for a couple of years in Nelson on the south island. I would house-sit for farmers who were coming over to the UK. I loved it there and would have stayed but came back to help.”

Margaret’s latest new venture is in tourism accommodation through what was the old farmhouse and another next to it. She’s finding that the location, with fantastic views overlooking the Shibden Valley and being close to where Emily Bronte was once governess, is helping.

“The farm dates back to 1618. The link with Emily Bronte, who was governess at what was Law Hill School, a girls' school at the top of our road, is a draw for tourists.”

Margaret said her love of animals and where she grew up is still important. “It’s still a farm and I love my suckler herd. I’m also passionate about the countryside and I’m currently looking at going back into a stewardship scheme.”