The History of Field Farm
Being on the edge of Horncastle, before the main village of High Toynton, Field Farm has an interesting history which we hope to research into some more in the future. We do know that horses were stabled here for the Great August Horse Fair (for which Horncastle was famous from the 13th century up until 1948), as well as for Horncastle’s fire service. We often find pieces of pottery, coins and buttons from past centuries when we work the land (or when the pigs do the hard work for us!).
In our more recent history, Field Farm was purchased on 26th May 1956 by Charles Badley (Sue’s grandfather) who moved here after being a tenant farmer at Scrivelsby. In those times, Charles bred cattle and sheep, as well as growing a range of cereals and fodder.
Over the next few decades we carried on breeding and rearing cattle and sheep, which were bought and sold at Horncastle market, where Charles could be found every Thursday.
A range of crops have been grown here over the years, from barley, wheat and oats to peas, sugar beet and potatoes.
Simpler times were ahead, though, and we reduced down to just sheep, fodder beet, and grassland. The farm shop developed from a stall at the end of the lane where we used to sell excess eggs from our hens. As the flock of sheep had remained, we added lamb to the shop, and over time we began to grow our own vegetables.
Conservation & Stewardship
Here at Field Farm we participate in what’s known as Stewardship. The aim of this is to promote nature conservation and to protect biodiversity, and this agri-environmental scheme helps us to conserve and enhance the landscape.
Stewardship options used on the farm include:
- Hedgerow management, whereby hedgerows consist of native shrubs which are not cut during the bird-breeding season
- 2, 4 and 6m buffer strips which provide habitat for insects and small mammas. We sow wild seed mixes in some of these strips to provide feed for birds.
- Pollen and nectar flower mixtures which are sown in strips around the farm to benefit a range of wildlife.
- Permanent grassland with low inputs of fertilisers and no sprays. We do not plough or cultivate the permanent pastures, but instead manage by grazing with sheep.
We also support a range of wild birds on the farm, including little owls, barn owls, yellowhammers, grey partridges, pheasants and skylarks to name a few. Every year we look forward to the arrival of the swallows, which nest in the sheds around the farmyard.
In 2000 we expanded the farm shop and added more poultry, in addition to rearing turkeys for Christmas. As the shop grew and we were trying to find ways to expand our offering, Richard and Nic decided to go on a pig-keeping course…the rest was history! We researched some breeds and decided to stick with what was traditional; Berkshires, the oldest pig breed in Britain. Since buying our first pedigree Berkshires in 2003 we have grown the herd and supply all of our own pork from joints and chops to sausages and bacon.
We have a flock of 120 breeding ewes to produce free range lamb for the shop.
The rams are Suffolks and Charollais, which are put to Suffolk x Charollais ewes, and also to North Country Mules. These mules are cross-bred sheep; Swaledale ewes, sired by a Bluefaced Leicester ram.
Every September we put the rams to the ewes, before scanning in the days just after Christmas to see how many lambs we’re expecting.
During the second week of December (or slightly earlier if the weather is poor) we bring the sheep in to the polytunnels to prepare them for lambing. This enables us to split the flock into groups, depending on how many lambs they’re having; singles, twins, triplets or quads. We can then feed each group slightly differently to ensure the ewes are receiving just the right amount of feed and nutrients for them to give birth to healthy lambs.
The ewes lamb inside the polytunnels between February and March. After lambing, each ewe is penned up with her lambs to allow them to bond, and to ensure that each lamb receives its first colostrum (which is imperative to provide the lamb with immunity against infection). After a day or two they are then let out into ‘nursery pens’ with other ewes and lambs, to give the lambs the opportunity to exercise and play with their new flock-mates.
So long as it is warm enough, the ewes and lambs are then turned out into the grass fields a few days later. The reason why lambing occurs at this time of the year is because there is plenty of grass growing to support the ewes whilst they are providing milk for the lambs.
If you drive down to the farm shop from March onwards you will see lambs skipping around the fields, racing along the fence, whilst the ewes graze contently on clover-rich grass.
Come summer, Richard then has the unenviable task of shearing our ewes and rams. It takes a while to do the full flock, so it’s done in stages over a couple of weeks when the weather is optimum and before the main fly season begins. The wool is then delivered to British Wool, where it goes on to be sold to the wool textile industry for use in flooring, furnishings and apparel.
Sue and Richard have a love for the Lake District, and as they don’t get up there to holiday as often as they like they decided to bring a bit of the Lakes back to Lincolnshire and so started a small flock of Herdwicks. These are completely new to us, having purchased our first breeding stock in 2018. Lesson number one was Herdwicks don’t see fences as barriers, they see them as a challenge! So every now and then, when you visit the farm shop, there’ll be a Herdwick taking a stroll around the farm. Trust us, we’ve tried fencing them in, but there’s always who decides they’re Bambi and leaps over the top.
Have you ever wondered why we have different coloured Herdwicks? Well that depends on their age; they start off little black balls of fluff, with small white patches on the back of their ears. As they age, their face starts to turn white, with rings around their eyes and nose which gradually spread until their whole faces are white. Their fleece turns brown when they’re a year old, then after their first shearing the fleece becomes grey. And best of all, throughout this whole transformation, they look like little teddy bears!
Berkshires are the oldest recorded pedigree pig breed in Britain. They are relatively short-legged, with a dished face and medium-length snout. The hair on these pigs is black, with white ‘socks’, tail and diamond on the face.
Our ‘Toynton’ herd of Berkshire pigs produce the most mouth-watering pork you can buy. The pigs move around the farm as part of our traditional rotation system, clearing vegetable ground and adding fertiliser back onto the land.
The pigs stay outdoors for all of their lives, rooting around in the past season’s vegetable plots. The only exception to this is for any of our sows farrowing during winter, when it’s too cold for them to give birth outdoors. In this situation, we bring the sow in to one of our polytunnels in the farmyard; as well as being a nice snug place for the sow to build her nest (yes, pigs do build nests before they give birth!), it also enables us to keep an eye on the sow and her piglets during the first few days of their lives. When it’s really cold outside, we can also provide a heat-lamp for the piglets in the polytunnel to give them extra comfort
Our laying hens are Black Rocks; hybrid hens which lay beautiful brown eggs with delicious golden yolks. These hens have thick black feathers with chestnut-colouring around the neck, and their feathers help to protect the hens from the elements. They are very productive birds, laying 230-280 eggs per year; this varies depending on the individual bird and also on the weather; hens don’t like laying eggs when it’s cold and dark, so the laying is reduced during the winter months. Our hens roam free on clover-rich grassland, eating whatever bugs they can find in addition to their natural GM-free diet. During summer you will often see them sitting in dust baths, which they make themselves to help keep their feathers in tip-top condition.
Our free-range table birds are fed on a GM-free diet whilst they graze on grass. These birds are a minimum of 12 weeks old before they are fully grown, as opposed to the chickens you can buy in supermarkets which are just over 5 weeks old by the time they arrive on your dinner plate. All poultry are prepared for your table on-site, so from the day of arrival on the farm to the day they are purchased in the shop they will not have left the farm.
We get our turkeys in as chicks, and they go straight into a straw-bedded polytunnel. They have continuous access to fresh water and enjoy an ad-lib natural diet. Once settled in, the turkeys are allowed to roam freely on clover-rich pastures. This gives the turkey its succulent natural flavour.
Customers to the farm shop are regularly entertained by the beautiful display of their bronze-coloured plumage.
All birds are prepared on the farm; we hand-pluck the birds and no unnecessary stress is put on them through handling or travelling. The birds are hung in our on-farm cold store for 10-12 days prior to being dressed out (which is also carried out by Sue and Richard on the farm).
Please note that when ordering turkeys for Christmas, sizes are approximate; we sell every bird on the farm and, as such, we cannot grow them all precisely to size!
Our turkeys have also experienced fame by featuring on the BBC’s Countryfile in 2009; Matt Baker and the television crew came to the farm for a couple of days to film Richard with his turkeys, and to decide whether turkey or goose rules the roost on Christmas day.
We grow a selection of our own vegetables here at Field Farm, where Richard plants the vegetables direct by hand. We use no sprays; to avoid pest and weather damage we grow the vegetables under fleeces in the fields where necessary, and harvest them daily to ensure freshness.
Our speciality crops are potatoes, which are grown on land previously grazed by sheep and pigs to provide fertility and flavour. Unlike much of the commercially-grown UK crop, we do not irrigate our potatoes; we prefer to let mother nature do the work for us, and so our potatoes are full of flavour and do not go to mush when they are cooked.
We use organic Scottish certified Orla seed potatoes, which are planted using a 2-furrow potato planter during spring. The earlies are ready in late July, whilst the main crop is harvested in October.