Craig and Ryan Baxter, Share Farming Partners on the Rural Estate

As the anniversary of our Share Farming Partnership with Nene Park Trust has recently passed, our latest blog takes stock of the last year as well as looking at some of the more recent and impending activity on the Rural Estate. 

Back in the autumn of 2020, the arrival 250 Lleyn sheep and 40 Hebridean sheep marked the start of our farming partnership with the Trust. Roll on to the spring of 2021, and 400 lambs from the newly formed flock were born, shortly followed by the arrival of a herd of 31 Ruby Red Devon cattle. 

The Rural Estate is and has been alive with these animals throughout the summer. Lucy Thornton-Reid of Nene Park Trust joined us for a day in August to roll up her sleeves and see and hear more about our work on the Rural Estate. If you haven’t yet seen the video blog that Lucy and wider Nene Park team pulled together as part of the #Farm24 campaign, then this can be found here

Outside of the day to day care of the livestock on the Rural Estate, which in the summer months feels like a privilege rather than a job, the annual hay crop was made over the summer on land at Water Newton and Castor. Aside from being an important part of the management of the Rural Estate, this will also provide winter fodder for the cattle and sheep. In particular, the cattle will soon be taken from their river meadows, enjoying this hay over the winter before returning when the weather permits in the spring. 

Alongside this, we were also out and about cutting and baling other areas across Ferry Meadows that had been left to seed, including land in the Park itself and around the rowing lake and golf course. Very catchy weather made all of this quite a challenge, but with more than a few long days and late nights we did get there in the end! 

Looking ahead, spring 2022 will see the establishment of a further 60 acres of legume and herb-rich pasture at Normangate, Castor. This pasture will be abundant with legumes and herbs and as well as being suitable for the livestock, will also provide habitat and food for invertebrates, including crop pollinators, and improve soil structure and water infiltration. This land will be removed from its current arable rotation, and importantly will no longer receive artificial fertilisers. We have been cultivating and preparing this land ahead of drilling the seeds in the spring. This will extend the impact and extent of our farming system, which sets out to produce high-welfare, extensively farmed and grass fed meat from happy, healthy livestock. 

On this same vein, we have also been working with local, family run butchers to develop our range of 'Park to Plate' Lamb Boxes which will soon be available through Nene Park Trust’s website with the first collection date available in December. These will comprise a small, medium and large option, each of which contain a variety of cuts and joints of Lamb. This is a really important step for the share farming partnership, which had always set out to make available meat farmed on the Rural Estate in an extensive, natural and forage-based system. Look out for updates on our ‘Park to Plate’ initiative on Nene Park's socials this week to find out more about our meat and how you can order.

All told a busy summer and year, but as the winter approaches everything should slow down a little to give us some time to catch up and re-charge ready for another busy spring!