“GET on my land” is the unlikely cry of one Cheshire farmer who is encouraging groups of visitors to come and see for themselves how a modern farm survives in a difficult economic climate.
Huw Rowlands, who farms at The Grange Farm, Mickle Trafford, with his county councillor father David, has been on courses to help him communicate his message to groups of six or more.
The tours are funded by Natural England but free to visitors. Part of the philosophy behind the Higher Stewardship scheme is to reconnect agriculture with its local community.
Huw, who farms 149 rare breed Red Poll cattle for meat sold direct to the customer, said the tours publicise the beef and the beef promotes the tours.
He said: “Most of the farmers around here think we’re crazy letting people onto our land but we seem to be among the few farms still going. There tends to be that old-fashioned ‘Get off my land’ mentality.”
Diversification is the watchword of the modern farm which needs several income streams to remain viable. The Grange Farm had to give up dairy farming five years ago because it just wasn’t profitable.
Huw said: “We did our calculations and we were losing almost a penny on every pint we were producing.”
What proved the final straw was the prospect of spending £100,000 to bring the milking parlour and dairy up to date.
“The chappie I bought my first Red Poll bull from said there were four options in farming – either get bigger, get out, get a niche or go under,” added Huw.
Yesterday about 30 members of Cheshire WI joined Huw for the tour which began at the ancient Plemstall Church taking in St Plegmund’s Well, named after the hermit who was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Alfred the Great in 876AD.
The tour took in fields grazed by the Red Poll cattle, so called due to their red coats and because they do not grow horns (polled).
There is a chance to see fields used to provide feed and cover for over-wintering birds, willow trees which feed the giraffes at Chester Zoo and a poplar plantation which will be used for firewood and kitchen worktops.
Visitors can see a kitchen garden run by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, a view of the River Gowy – where eels continue to thrive – and Trafford Mill which is a Grade II listed water mill from 1770 that has planning permission to be turned into a working museum.
There is a gruesome story of a highway robbery from 1796 which saw the culprits hanged.
WI organiser Mrs Jill Beavan, chairman of the sports and leisure section and member of the Guilden Sutton branch, said: “We like to learn along the way. We get a different lot of people each time.
“Of course going back, a lot of ladies in this area would have been farmers or farmers’ wives.”
Other groups to take the free tour include Broxton Barn Owl group, Irish dairy farmers and Cheshire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group.
For more information, call Huw on mobile 07950 963526 or landline 01244 300655.