Farm of the Month: Carrsides Farm

Carrsides Farm is a working lowland farm located between Darlington and Durham and not far from our own Barbour HQ.

October 9th 2013

Carrsides Farm is a working lowland farm located between Darlington and Durham and not far from our own Barbour HQ.
It’s run and managed by two brothers who are fourth generation farmers from the Wilkinson family.
As part of our Wild Britain campaign we were lucky enough to visit the farm and meet Rob Wilkinson. Rob very kindly showed us around parts of the 1,200 acre site and gave us a good insight into daily life on a working farm.

What sort of Farm is Carrsides?
Carrsides is a mixed farm, specialising in Milk Production and growing combineable crops. We farm a total of 1200 acres, 400 of which are located at the homesteading, with a further 500 at an adjoining farm. The remainder is contract farmed a short distance away.

Who, what, where, when?
My great-grandfather bought Carrsides Farm in the 1930s. My brother and I are now the fourth generation of Wilkinson farmers. Carrsides was originally a traditional mixed farm with dairy, beef, sheep, pigs and hens but 15 years ago we streamlined to concentrate wholly on the dairy and arable enterprises.

Once my brother and I returned home from University we endeavoured to grow the farm in terms of both acreage and cow numbers. We now milk 400 cows and hold followers of c. 350. Our milk is sold locally to Embleton Hall Dairies who supply the local area.

We are now also involved in some environmental schemes including planting areas of wild bird cover and creating duck ponds for wading birds.

What do you think makes us a great nation of farmers?
British farmers are able to produce the best quality of food to the best welfare standard in the world; all from a very tiny island comparatively. Britain is often at the forefront of new technology, breaking yield boundaries and innovation. It is refreshing to see a renaissance in the popularity of the British countryside and how local produce is celebrated.

What are your favourite rare breeds?
Actually, last week we spent a night in Northumberland for my wife’s birthday. We went to see the Chillingham Wild Cattle which is a fascinating story of what can happen when things are completely left to nature. They have no human contact, no interference, no vets, no drugs, no culling. It is a mixed herd, 50% male, so they spend their days fighting to be top dog – they are not bred to produce milk or beef, they are just what cows would look like naturally. Very different from modern farming!

We have a small herd of Highland cows who think they are free range and we also have a couple of saddle back and saddle back cross pigs which we sell as a box scheme.

What makes a good farmer?
Farming isn’t a 9-5, it is a lifestyle that can become all-encompassing – you have to love it! You need a good sense of humour too and a good team around you. You must realise that some things are out of your control and that you cannot take everything to heart; it is not your fault that it is raining AGAIN!

Farmers have to be very multi-talented – they have to be a secretary, a vet, an environmentalist, an engineer, a sprinter, a manager, a counsellor and a comedian!

I should probably say that a farmer also needs an understanding wife who is not afraid of getting her hands dirty and a loyal dog that follows him everywhere!

Tips for first time farmers?
Go and see as many different farms as you can. Try and try again, ask questions and consider lots of different systems of farming; we all do it differently so find the way that works for you. Start small, be realistic – you are better doing 3 things well than 10 things poorly.

Which is the best season on the farm and why?
I like Autumn, it is satisfying to work the land and get it all drilled up knowing that it is left to mother nature to work her magic. Frosty mornings here are beautiful when the ground is hard and the trees shiver, especially when you know you have a good days hunting ahead of you!

Do you have a favourite place to visit in the British Isles?
I am amateur whip for the South Durham hunt and although not many people would think of County Durham as having rolling countryside views, when you have a line of hedges facing you in the distance and you know you are on a good horse on a good scenting day, that view is truly magnificent.

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