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The beginning

I remember standing in the open span barn at the centre of the farmyard for the first time feeling equally shell shocked, exhausted and overwhelmingly excited. This was it, the beginning of our farming journey. After months of meetings, spreadsheets, phone calls, a fair few fallings out and even some tears we are stood on ‘our farm’, the weight of that slowly sinking in. This is it. 

Hollie and Tom, at the time imminently expecting their third baby, had recently moved into the farmhouse, a rather crumbling listed building with a fair few windows looking ominously as if they were going to fall out! Oliver and I live just up the road on my family smallholding where my brother, Christy, also lives. 

Hollie, Christy and I had taken on the challenge of running the farm (Christy later decided to leave the farm and follow his own path with his wife Aleks). Tom and Oliver have off-farm jobs, Tom a graphic designer and Oliver a Senior Estate Manager for the National Trust. For the first few years while the business grows Hollie and I rely on them to support our crazy dream to become new entrant farmers.

Six months before, Oliver had been in a meeting with the landowner of the Nunwell Estate, Rob Oglander. This meeting was the source of everything that was to follow. 

Rob mentioned that he was looking for people to manage the land, especially the 120 acres forming part of the original parkland on the Estate. Knowing the effect that this news would have on me he held off a few days before tentatively telling me of the opportunity. 

He was right to be wary. My whole family and Hollie - a childhood friend and fellow mum of small children - immediately jumped into action planning the potential farming business. Oliver and I spent many late nights working on spreadsheets showing five years of projections and Tom and Hollie made a brochure which looked fit for a high end estate agents. 

Building the vision was tough, it had to work on a relatively small scale and provide income from the start. On top of this we were starting from scratch with no machinery, livestock or capital. In the end we managed to scrape together loans from family as seed money for our dream. We eventually pitched for a mixed farm with Grass Fed belted Galloway cattle, pastured Berkshire pigs and laying hens. 

Rob was, and still is, massively supportive of our vision and quickly gave us the go ahead. Many years experience working on the land, researching food and nutrition and developing business planning skills were poured into the dream. Now it was a reality. 

The barn felt huge and empty. We were there to build a makeshift pen for our Berkshire pigs who had been living at the smallholding for the summer. The sows, like Hollie(!), were all due to have babies soon and the weather was closing in. 

Little did we know at that point what an adventure was ahead of us. 

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