Steven Fisher and Sarah Bradley took on Park Grange Farm with just four acres, which had been a working farm previously six years ago simply with the view of bringing together their family life and events company that had been based at two separate addresses.
Steven is now ‘Farmer Steve’, presenting daily podcasts and social media clips that show how he and Sarah have responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic to their original business. Sarah said that what they have already developed has changed their way of life.
“When we came to Park Grange we had no animals and we weren’t farmers. I was born and grew up in North Yorkshire and spent every school holiday on farms owned by my grandparents, my auntie and now my cousin at Constable Burton and Kepwick.
“I learned everything I know about farming from my grandad, Ronnie Coates. Steven was born and raised here in Gawthorpe, at 21 High Street.
“We had taken on four pet lambs from the family farm and had added four goats, but it was when another 16 acres came up between our farm and the village that Steven’s idea started to take shape.”
Steven and Sarah bought what had been a livery yard and paddocks in June last year and have since turned their events expertise into a daily farming event for locals which is called The Watering Hole Down On The Farm.
Sarah said that she and Steven had noticed how many more people were walking up and down the lane to their farm that is a public footpath, bridleway and part of the well-known Wakefield Wheel cycle route.
“Dolly, our Texel X ewe, became famous. She would stand in the corner of the field as people wandered along and they would stop and give her a stroke.
“When we bought this additional land we decided to put our Citroen HY van just inside the gate and started selling teas, coffees and cake to walkers and cyclists. It was an immediate hit and we enjoyed it too.
“We had missed talking to people and our farm being at the end of the lane had meant we hadn’t seen many people during the lockdowns.
“It has just gone from one thing to another since then. People then asked whether there was anywhere they could sit, which led to a seating area; and that led on to people coming to see the animals.”
The Watering Hole Down On The Farm opened up on April 12 this year.
Steven and Sarah have now grown their livestock numbers to nine pet lambs, Dolly the sheep, two donkeys, a miniature Shetland pony called Biscuit with two more that have just arrived, Stanley and Apollo the horses, three Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs called Schmeichel, Peppa and Truffles and a number of chickens. Sarah said the local people love it.
“There isn’t anything like it in the area, not at our scale, so we’re not competing with the likes of Cannon Hall at all. We love what they do. Walkers really enjoy finding us too. We are a great stop for people wanting a rest and something different.
“We’ve met so many really lovely people and it’s great for me personally. Looking back, I was a little sad that I hadn’t married a farmer because I felt my children wouldn’t have had the same upbringing as I had, but now I have the best of both worlds because the amazing city of Leeds is on my doorstep, we have fields surrounding us and the children can see what it is like having farm animals, plus I now have my own Farmer Steve, who just loves the animals and farming.”
Sarah said the intention is to add to the farm. She was used to jobs like lambing and milking up in North Yorkshire.
“I worked on a farm as my first job. We will have our own lambs born here at some point in the future and the boys, our sons Elliot, 13, and Spencer, five, who also appear in Farmer Steve’s social media, want a Highland cow. Our daughter Emilia looks after the horses and ponies.”
The team at The Watering Hole Down On The Farm is expanding too, with Farmer Phil, a farmer’s son, and another two team members who all have farming knowledge.
There are another 16 acres they also rent to make haylage, which will be cut soon. Sarah said her involvement is more in the background.
“I guess I’m Farmer Sarah, but I’m not one for the media spotlight. I’m more the one who knows about farming through my background. Steven is still learning but he absolutely loves it.
“He will often ask my advice on how to do things. Farming here wasn’t our intention because our events company kept us so busy, but on March 15 last year when we had finished what turned out to be our last event in 2020, our regular business stopped overnight. It has made us do something really good and rewarding.
“We are finding that we are contributing in our own way to children’s and adults’ education about farming, and providing somewhere great for local people.
“We’ve also started our own spa with a wood-fired hot tub and offer full body massage and facials. We will work back in the events world.
“Steven has already started going back out on the road again. It has always been our way of life and passion but starting this has given us a greater balance.
“In 2019 Steven was away 48 out of 52 weekends in the year. This has changed our way of life and we have had some amazing family time with our children. He’s also loving being known as Farmer Steve - and I have my farmer at last!”