We came across an Instagram account named Woodland Dave which was utterly fascinating with beautiful photos and intriguing insights into farming life. So we arranged to meet Rebecca Hosking who runs Village Farm, a 175-acre organic farm at East Portlemouth, overlooking Salcombe. She explains why wild flowers are the key to perfect lamb, and what it’s like to farm overlooking Mill Bay.
An average day starts by… moving our flock of over 400 animals to fresh pastures. We farm organically and we also use cutting edge ecological agricultural practices, one of which includes rotating our animals to different paddocks every day; it’s like an organised migration. It takes roughly four months to rotate around the whole farm and by doing this the herbs, flowers and wildlife have time to grow undisturbed for a while. It also means we don’t have to use any chemicals on our animals or industrial tractors on the land, saving on energy and carbon emissions.
We started this project to… set ourselves the challenge of taking on a windswept, misused, neglected, coastal farm and turn it into an abundant, rich landscape that produces nourishing, healthy, organic, high welfare food with 100% traceability, while simultaneously becoming a haven for wildlife.
One thing I wish I knew before I started was… how strong the winter southwesterly wind is as it charges off the sea and roars across our fields.
The most difficult part of the job is… toiling in the fields on balmy summer weekends and looking down and seeing so many folk enjoying themselves on the estuary, or hearing the laughter and shouts of excitement coming from Mill Bay below. On those days the thought of the refreshing and inviting sea is pure torture!
The best part of our work is… split into two parts. On our land, as we have restored old wild flower meadows, planted trees and turned old arable fields into diverse herb rich pastures, it’s been wonderful to see the wildlife return. The second part is producing the finest tasting lamb and mutton we can possibly achieve.
The thing I am most looking forward to this year is… seeing our pigs arrive on the farm. We’re branching out into organic pasture-raised pork this year. For us it’s very exciting, we’ve tasted organic pasture-raised pork abroad and it has astonishing flavour, but it’s really hard to find in this country, so we’ll be one of the first to try.
My first piece of advice to anyone wanting to work in the industry is… like any job, do what you’re passionate about and tread your own path. If you’re interested in farming, find farmers already practicing the type of agriculture that interests you and try and get as much work experience with them as possible. Then you’ll get to see firsthand if it is the type of farming for you.
The most important thing anyone can do to support our work is… try one of our seasonal lamb or mutton boxes in the knowledge that your money is going into restoring the pastures, wildflowers and woodlands across the land. We offer fresh next-day delivery anywhere in the country and our new season starts at the end of March.
When I am not on the farm I… either spend time walking along the cliffs observing wildlife or, in the summer, snorkeling in the sea. Then in the evenings, at least once a week throughout the year, we eat in one of the local pubs or restaurants. Our two big passions are wildlife and good food, which goes hand-in-hand with our job.
The thing I most like to do to relax in Salcombe is… catch the ferry across the water on Sundays and have a lazy afternoon lunch in one of the pubs. It’s very easy on a farm to work all the days of the month, but we’re getting a bit better at trying to have downtime and one of our newly formed customs is our so-called ‘Salcombe Sunday Special’.
To find out more about Village Farm, you can visit their website. We also highly recommend following them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for brilliant photography and fascinating information about their farming life.