We are a small family farm in West Dorset. ('We' are - me, I'm Mary; my friend Dan; my son Joe and my daughter Rosie.)
We believe that food can be produced without damaging the planet and without treating animals badly. In fact it is essential that these criteria be met.
We are starting up a lamb-at-foot sheep's milk cheese dairy and also a chicken club. Sheep's milk cheese is a really good source of protein and a lot of people who can't take other milks can take sheep's milk. And it's also delicious! * What is Lamb-at-foot? On most dairy farms calves, kids or lambs are taken from their mothers at a very young age in order for the humans to have their milk. We will leave the lambs with their mothers until they're 4-6 weeks old.
Chickens - when you buy a free-range chicken you often don't know how free-range it really is. The members of the chicken club will agree to buy a certain number of chickens each month and they'll be able to feel reassured about how free-free range their chickens are because they can come and see them whenever they want.
The electricity is for milking machines, fridges and a freezer, an incubator and heat lamps for the chicks. (I used to have cows, and milk them by hand, but with sheep you really do need the machines or you'd be there all day, and the sheep wouldn't be impressed by that!)
Our history:- We've been working in farming for nearly 25 years. 8 years ago we were very lucky to be able to buy this land - Little Oak Farm. We moved on 2 years ago (the kids and I into a static caravan, Dan in his wagon) and are cracking on - building the buildings, putting in water pipes, creating vegetable and fruit gardens, looking after the sheep, reducing the creeping thistle, planting lots of hedges, making some hard standing etc etc. And trying to keep our fossil fuel usage to a minimum - trying to do the least harm to the planet that we can.
Since making the above video the buildings have really come on. They're not quite finished but we're getting there. And a couple of weeks ago we got the first polytunnel put up. Yay!
Having mains electricity provided by one of the companies that sells 100% renewable electricity is the route we've chosen to go down because we think it's the greenest option. We are currently off-grid. We've lived off-grid for years. And in many ways its great but it has its failings:-
i) you need the right weather - and here if the electricity went off the chicks would die and the sheep wouldn't be able to be milked which is a complete no-no. We could have a back-up generator for that situation but they run on fossil fuels. So it's possible, but not the greenest solution we feel.
ii) the batteries, which need replacing periodically, are still far from ecologically sound;
iii) the batteries are also very expensive - so much so that businesses can fold up just because they can't afford to replace the batteries;
iv) setting up an off-grid system sufficient to meet the demand of milking machines, fridges and freezers, heat lamps for the chicks etc. would actually cost more than connecting to the mains, and all the components of the system - batteries, solar panels etc. have quite a big ecological footprint;
v) You're not truly independent because you still need the replacement batteries and components periodically.
vi) And if we put solar panels on the roof of the barn extension we can sell renewable electricity back into the system - facilitating other people having renewable energy too.
We will still use the off-grid system that we currently have as much as possible.
Thank you for your time and for your support for our fundraiser.
My belief is that if animals are being kept - ie. farmed, we need to fully recognise that they are 100% dependent on us. They can't just walk off over the hill to find what they need. So it's up to us to provide them with all the conditions that they would choose for themselves - space; fresh water; a varied diet of forage, herbs etc.; shelter from strong sun and bad weather; care to their relationships and flock dynamics; health care without using loads of pharmaceuticals; protection from predators, and so on.
Their diet:- Mainly forage. ie.grass/hay and nibbling at hedges. When the ewes are producing milk they also need their diets supplementing with a more protein rich concentrated food and I use organic Lucerne that's been grown in this country. (https://www.cotswoldseeds.com/articles/86/lucerne-also-known-as-alfalfa)
*Sheep milk is extremely high in fat and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and has a high level of solids, as compared to other milks. This makes it very suitable for cheese-making. In particular, sheep's milk produces much more cheese than the same amount of cow's milk.
The Right To Roam made the video. Click on the link in the corner of the video and see some of their amazing and award-winning documentaries and short films. Joya and Lucy - thank you so much. xx