They say never meet your heroes but I met two of mine this week and I wasn’t disappointed.
It was quite the reverse – both they, and their families, were all amazing, sharing their time, ideas and passions.
We’re on a short holiday to the Lake District, and on a mission to deliver this year’s clip of our North Country Cheviot hogg wool to a truly inspirational lady – Maria Benjamin from Dodgson Wood.
Maria along with Gloria Mazzer, an Italian based in London, reached out to me on social media to discuss the possibility of doing more with our wool.
We all feel wool has been undervalued on many levels.
Who knows where this journey will lead. However, I do know that as we drove a stock trailer, packed to the roof with hogg wool, dodging the tourists along the side of Lake Windermere, what we were doing, was the right thing.
Maria and her partner John are farming in the beautiful Lake District.
They’ve diversified their traditional farm business into holiday accommodation and campsites. Alongside this, they sell ethically farmed meat boxes, sheepskins and hides, knitting yarns, locally produced tweed and clothing.
Milk from their Jersey cow goes into soaps and hand salves, which are sold online and in local outlets. The milk from that one cow has gone on to make four full- and part-time jobs and led to a barn conversion to accommodate the rapidly expanding business.
Maria supports others. She shares her business knowledge and expertise willingly. She’s been key in helping me to unravel some ideas and set the direction of travel for our farming business.
My second hero, James Rebanks, is a hill farmer from Matterdale in the Lake District, breeding Herdwick sheep and Beltie Galloway cattle.
James stands up for all that’s good in hill farming but isn’t frightened to call out what’s gone wrong in farming on social media and in print.
The Oxford graduate has written two best selling books – The Shepherd’s Life and English Pastoral – both of which moved me to tears.
James’s English Pastoral, published last September, has been pivotal in helping me lay out a very ambitious plan for what I want to achieve environmentally.
I tried to be calm when I got a message from James and his wife Helen – “we hear you’re in the area, pop in for a brew when you’re passing.”
It wasn’t easy to stay cool when you meet folk who have been so influential in your life. My Highland reserve was clearly left at home when I told them all how amazing they were within 30 seconds of meeting them.
We spent two magical and inspiring hours with the Rebanks and loved our tour of Racy Ghyll Farm showcasing High Nature Farming at its best.
The place was alive with bees, insects and the sound of grass hoppers; regenerative grazing, slowing watercourses down that run through the farm which reduces the flooding risks down stream; and tree and hedge planting creating wildlife corridors around freshly cut hay meadows containing hundreds of rare plant species.
I’m a visual learner and thanks two my two farming heroes I’m now ready to take my environmental and diversification journeys to the next level. I’m heading north inspired and rejuvenated.
Who said social media was such a bad thing?
- Joyce Campbell farms at Armadale on the north coast of Sutherland.