Let it grow - September Meeting

Wednesday, 28 June 2017 § 0

On this balmy September evening, we were joined by Angela Broadhead with support from her friend Alison. Angela owns and runs Swithens Farm with her husband Ian.

Angela explained that Ian’s mother and father moved to the farm as tenants in 1963 when her husband was 5 years old. It was originally part of the Calverly Estate which had Oulton Hall as its manor house.

They grew potatoes and other vegetables on the farm to sell at the farm gate, kept livestock and ran a livery stable, where a young Angela kept her horse (and the rest as they say is history).

In the 1990s they converted to pig-farming in a big way and did very well out of it until that market crashed and they had to do all they could to avoid bankruptcy. They then started to covert old farm buildings into stables to build up the livery side again – they started with 4 and now have 110.

The in-laws retired in 2005 and at the same time the farm went up for sale – it was sold to company in the Isle of Man but when it went bankrupt Angela and Ian had to decide between a massive financial undertaking or losing the business they had rebuilt so far. They went for it and got a massive mortgage to buy the farm from the bank. They could not afford to buy the farmhouse, which in the end was bought by a close friend.

After a while as well as continuing to run the livery service they needed to decide what direction to follow to take the business forward – should they fully invest in cows & pigs (after their previous experience) or the farm shop route. Following advice from their friends at Blacker Hall Farm, Angela and Ian decided on the farm shop route. Along with the farm shop came a café, a play barn and animals.

See http://www.swithensfarm.co.uk for more information.

If you visit, for a small entrance fee, you will see sheep, ducks, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, ponies, goats, cows, pigs including former pet pigs, chickens, rabbits and Meer cats

Angela gets given animals (Meer cats) or they find her (a stray cow!)

They also breed cows, pigs and sheep to supply the farm shop.
These animals are largely fed on the vegetables, grown on a neighbouring farm which the supermarkets reject. Swithens Farm collect 2 trailer loads a day!

The animals go to the most local abattoir possible for slaughter and then go back to the farm to be butchered.

The farm is a family business with Angela’s two daughters aged 28 and 30 managing the petting farm and the stable yard respectively.

Also Angela’s ‘retired’ parents help out either in the shop, as a carrot chopper or baking for the café.
The farm hosts all kind of events from kids’ parties in the play barn to the occasional tea dance.
There’s a dog training centre, a garden centre and an indoor riding arena on site and Swithens also plays host to horse shows.

Swithens Farm does a lot to support local and diverse groups including:

  • Free entry for disabled people
  • A dementia friendly café
  • All areas are totally accessible by wheelchair and double buggy (although not all will manage the tractor ride)
  • Local crafts for sale in the shop
  • Regular donations of equestrian equipment from the livery yard to Hope pastures
  • Supporting Candlelighters and Little Hiccups

Horses are still one of Angela’s passions – she has 3 and did do some show jumping but has now taken up dressage. She is has bred a foal from her dressage horse which just that day had been sent away to be schooled.

Angela brought some free range eggs for us to purchase and they seemed to disappear very quickly. She explained that these come from their brood of 300 chickens – they get around 200 eggs a day. They buy young chicks at the age when they are about to start laying but unlike commercial free range egg production they keep the chickens until they die naturally even when they have stopped laying.

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