Bernard and Mary Harris have been running the farm in Inkpen near Hungerford, west Berkshire after initially buying 11 acres.
They gradually acquired more land and rented some, eventually building up a holding of 180 acres and about 180 beef cattle. Today, they have 125 acres, all of which is owned and near the farmhouse, and about 70 cattle.
“I always had an affinity for the land and farming,” said Mr Harris, who was originally in a different business. “We started as a low input hobby exercise before we decided to do it properly.”
They opted for more land and organic farming because they were already running a low input, low output system: the farm has been organic and registered with the Soil Association for more than 30 years.
About six cattle were finished to start with, and then came the move into suckler cows. “We didn’t own our own bull in the beginning, but we do now and have done for some years,” Mr Harris said.
Initially, not much beef was produced and it was sold locally. But about 20 years ago, the Harris’ bought the nearby Swan Inn, and added a butchery, hanging room and farm shop to the building. The Swan is also a hotel and restaurant. “The pub consumes some of the beef through the restaurant and some goes through the farm shop. For a number of years, we have had a bit of a surplus which goes to ABP and I am told it ends up as organic beef in Sainsbury’s London supermarkets.”
In the early years, 18 month in calf heifers were bought in. Then a bull was borrowed from a local farm for six months of the year to go with the replacement heifers. The farm does not produce any breeding stock: all the heifers and steers are sold for meat. “Apart from the first year, we have always had the same formula which is black and white Hereford cross cows and a pedigree Limousin bull which keeps the external fat down to a minimum. We have always bought the bulls from the same place because they are hand reared and quite quiet.”