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A Land Worth Loving update: Bachelors

Updated Monday, 31st July 2006

We catch up with the families from A Land Worth Loving - are they keeping on their green path?

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Batchelor Family Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

'Back to basics - that’s what Ian and Yta did when they left their jobs working for large agricultural companies. They were fed up with the use of pesticides and intensive farming methods and believe passionately that we should take better care of our land. So strongly did they feel that land could be farmed differently, they sank their savings into transforming their smallholding into an organic farm. They also wanted to spend more time together as a family unit, rather than having to spend time travelling further afield.

While they’ve turned their dream into a reality, they now face the reality of making the farm pay to sustain themselves. This is difficult in the increasingly competitive market of organic farming. They want to explore niche markets for their produce and would love to be self-sufficient.

With the demands of a new baby, they were late planting their crop of 10,000 cauliflowers, which failed due to the frost and were fed to the sheep. Undeterred, the arrival of 1,800 chickens for the production of organic free range eggs, brings them much fun and heralds a new phase for the farm. The eggs are now being sold 'at the door' and at the supermarket.

The difficulties Ian and Yta have faced have largely been the high capital outlay in what can be a highly volatile market. When they began they didn’t know anyone locally, so had to start completely from scratch. They’ve been building up contacts and have continued to spend their time trying to get established. Ian and Yta remain open-minded to change, so that they can adapt to the customer base. There are several enterprises they'd like to set up, but they can only concentrate on one a year. Each enterprise needs to make money for them to fund the next one. In their first year, the majority of their income was coming from their strawberries, so there was a lot at stake.

Their first crop of organic strawberries went to Bristol Market and sold well. They're experimenting on new varieties for next year's crop. Ian and Yta have already expanded their range of produce and are now growing courgettes, broccoli, sweetcorn, raspberries and potatoes. They're setting up a 'box scheme', where a selection of vegetables from their farm are freshly picked for customers on a weekly basis.

Next year will see them growing an even greater range. Meanwhile, in the winter months they'll be busy getting the land prepared ready for that next crop.

“Everyday is a new and exciting challenge,” says Yta, though she concedes that it was almost easier to manage 600 acres of potatoes, which they did before, than their own 85 acres of organic farmland. While there are always difficult times for Ian and Yta, they thoroughly enjoy the farm and get a lot from it, deriving tremendous benefits which they feel can't be measured in monetary terms, like watching things grow, watching the business develop, the warmth from local people, and customers. Another great benefit they feel is that they can be together as a family and give their son, Tristan, a super environment to grow up in.

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