Ever since writing my first farm story in 1991 when visiting the Dale brothers, Malcolm and Trevor in Rosedale, there seems to have been an undercurrent in the industry believing the smaller scale family farm is on its way out.
Twenty-seven years on and there are still thankfully new young farming couples full of vim and vigour eager to build a fresh, vibrant life on the land.
It’s more than just heartening, it’s great for the soul and a mix of sheep, sheepdogs, stabling and haylage along with holding down part-time jobs elsewhere is bringing long held dreams to reality for thirty-somethings Sean Wisher and Charlotte Buckton at Park Farm, Scorborough near Leconfield in the East Riding.
Sean and Charlotte took on a 20-year farm business tenancy at the 60-acre farm with their children Millie and Jack, moving from Elstronwick in Holderness in August 2015 and have a further 45 acres of rented land in several parcels elsewhere.
“It’s been hard work,” says Sean. “We saw the tenancy advertised, decided to go for it and spent much of our week’s holiday in Scotland writing a business plan never thinking we would get it.
“It was the first we’d ever tried for and has needed a great deal of work and expense, but it has been so rewarding to see how far we have come in such a short space of time. “We’re extremely thankful for the enormous amount of help we’ve had from family to friends and neighbours. The community spirit here in Scorborough is brilliant, it’s such a lovely friendly village.
“I’d always wanted sheep and had loved having border collies as pets when I was growing up in Sheffield. My parents weren’t farmers but holidays in the Yorkshire Dales fuelled my interest that has led to breeding and training sheepdogs.
“Our first sheepdog Meg, purchased from Kim Gibson near Ripon, is our oldest working dog and we’ve had three litters from her. She’s mum of two of our other working dogs, Nell and Lassie. Our fourth is Mac, a young dog who I purchased from Mike Kinnes of Kilham.
“We’re currently expecting Nell’s first litter. I’ve used Matt Watson’s English National Sheepdog Trials champion Milo as our stud dog. Breeding and bloodlines are as important in dogs as they are in other livestock.”
Proof of Sean’s growing sheepdog breeding prowess is evident with pups having been sold to become working, trialling, agility or mountain rescue dogs from as far afield as the west country to the Scottish borders.
Charlotte’s parents, David and Christine, farm at Danthorpe with her brothers Sam and Chris also involved. Charlotte’s passion has always been horses and Park Farm’s livery stables are proving so popular there is to be an expansion in the coming months.
“I’d dreamed of having my own livery yard, but had not thought it would ever be possible,” says Charlotte. “We currently have eight stables and a ménage and we are full with my own horse and seven others. We put leaflets in local country stores and on social media and now have an extensive waiting list. Our plan is for a further eight stables in the coming months, but we won’t get carried away. I want to keep it as a small, friendly yard.”
Sean and Charlotte’s pedigree Lleyn flock of 150 breeding ewes has grown substantially since their move to Park Farm when they had just 50.
Sean’s hopes are to start selling pedigree stock at the Lleyn sales and some privately later this year and to begin a boxed lamb enterprise.
“We bought our first Lleyns in 2010. They have great prolificacy, good mothering ability and produce excellent conformation. We lamb from around March 1 and scanned this year at just over 200 per cent.”
The lamb box scheme set to launch this year is another weapon in Sean’s armoury to ensure Park Farm develops its income streams through the current vogue for quality farm produce ethically reared and marketed via social media and the internet. Haylage is produced from the farm’s grass for the sheep and horses and the couple have found promotion of any surplus another useful income strand.
“I built our website www.park-farm.org.uk and along with social media it has proved successful in selling not just what we do with the sheep and soon I hope our lamb box scheme, but also promoting the livery yard and the haylage.”
Sean and Charlotte met at the market research company where they both worked full-time. They now work part-time as project manager and administrator respectively.
“We’re delighted with how things have gone up to now but we also know that having our other jobs is the only way we can make all of this possible.
“We’re certainly not complaining either. We’ve our own farm, something we probably still can’t believe in some ways and we have two wonderful children who are loving being a part of this fabulous community.”