Ian and Mervyn took over grandmother’s farm, Chypraze, in 2009 realising that its former business as a small dairy farm was no longer viable. A new approach had to be developed. Ian’s lifelong activity in the Green movement led him to believe that there might be a role to play in meeting the concerns of people worried about the quality of their food, where it came from, how far it has had to travel, how animals were treated, whether they are dosed with anti-biotics, whether the land is dosed with chemicals and whether factory farming is in fact destroying the environment.
Curiously the fact that the farm has had no investment in its buildings for 60 years means that what we found were the basic cows and pigs houses of a bygone era when all animals were outdoor grown and pasture fed. We had a start! We tried fast growing modern pigs but soon turned to traditional rare breeds noted for their taste – the Saddleback and Middle White.
The other string to our bow is our herd (fold) of Highland cows. With these we are working with Natural England to improve the diversity of the environment on our cliff fields. This native rare breed is ideal for the rather rough and steep terrain. The strategy is to reduce the density of gorse and to encourage other plants, shrubs, heathers and grasses so that the maritime lowland heathland can return and with it the unique fauna and flora including ground nesting birds - stonechat, whitethroat and lark, reptiles – lizards and slow worms and butterflies like the Grayling. The holy grail of our conservation efforts is the Cornish Chough. This is where the Highlands have a critical role to play – their dung provides the perfect home for the bugs that choughs must have to survive. After 5 years waiting we are excited to report that there now regular sightings of a small flock of choughs feeding on Chypraze. The result for our customers is tasty meat from cattle from a very low density herd that has been 100% pasture fed with no supplementary protein feed at all.