December 14, 2017
Mixed Norfolk Recipe for Sustainable Success
Proof that you don’t have to become larger and larger or more and more specialised to be sustainable in modern farming comes in the form of a 160 ha Norfolk dairy and arable business achieving growing success.
Despite a scale that many would consider insufficient to support a single family, Church and Brek Farms in Frettenham just to the north of Norwich provide a living for no less than three as well as significant local employment. What’s more, the Norton families plan to bring another generation into the business within the next five years and provide for senior partners, Philip and Rona as and when they wish to ‘retire’.
While this will almost certainly mean expanding the 55-cow dairy herd, for the time being their recipe for sustainability is based firmly on making the most of their current mix of closely-interlinked enterprises supporting each other as much as spreading the business risk; a recipe that took them to the final of the Mixed Farmer of the Year in Farmers Weekly’s 2017 Awards.
Central to their success is close partnership working between all the family members, neighbouring farmers and trusted advisers like Agrii agronomist, Steve Sayce who has been working with them for more than 30 years.
“We’ve always been a mixed farm,” explained Philip Norton. “It makes things more complicated. But, as well as working closely with our community, Rona and I have long believed in having our eggs in several baskets; especially when these work as well for each other as ours do.
“Bedding our dairy cows on straw, for instance, gives us the continual supply of muck that makes all the difference to the productivity of our soils and adds extra value to our cropping. It’s also invaluable to our nephew David and his wife, Ruth in ensuring the health and productivity of the 9500-litre average Brown Swiss herd they manage. And it’s a great asset for our daughter, Emily in communicating the Nortons’ Dairy business she has developed around the idea of seriously pampered cows.”
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