Property television programme review an
My Dream Farm
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My Dream Farm
My Dream Farm is an alternative look at the property market by highlighting farms and individuals who wish to follow their dreams of living life on a farm. The Channel 4 series, made by the production company Betty TV Limited follows several scenarios where people who have had enough of the rat race follow a different direction by becoming self sufficient and work the land. Monty Don is host to the hour long episodes and follows people the length and breadth of the United Kingdom in their quest to follow a different lifestyle on a farm.
Farms in the United Kingdom
My Dream Farm explains that eighty percent of Britain is still farmland however less than two percent has anything to do with agriculture in the slightest. Monty Don also explains that he has been involved with farming for forty years and has become aware that people wish to get back to the land growing food and looking after animals. In My Dream Farm Monty Don is challenged to assist very diverse people to make their dream of returning to the land a reality.
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Farms in Suffolk
In the My Dream Farm episode we are writing this article about we look at the episode where Monty Don is in Suffolk the mainly agricultural and rural landscape with few big towns. Suffolk is definitely a county which attracts individuals who are wishing to escape the rat race.
As Independent Surveyors we are frequently in the county of Suffolk carrying out residential and commercial structural building surveys.
A couple inherited a piece of land in Suffolk and decided to change the course of their lives and centre it on the piece of land – a field. The couple in addition wished to build a farm building, shop and restaurant. The couple have the land, some money and management skills as well as energy but Monty Don wonders if they have passion to become farmers as he believes this drive is required.
The wife, Karon, was once a senior executive at an engineering firm and her partner, Simon is owner of an online gallery with My Dream Farm following their dream of turning a derelict thirteen acre site into their dream. The land was once owned by Simon's grandfather and he has memories of pigs being farmed on the land. They bring a pig breed from Eastern Europe with a very woolly coat called the Mangalitsa onto their land by purchasing four pigs. The budget for the project is large therefore they wish that a farm shop which they hope to sell local produce which they will produce as well as other local growers and an art gallery as well as a café will all be incorporated in a new build reproduction Suffolk barn. However Planning Permission is yet to be granted with the couple explaining how their investment has got to work as this is a business as well as their dream.
We are frequently as Independent Surveyors asked to help and give advice regarding Planning Permission and Building Regulation Approvals where for example a room has been created in a loft and unless the appropriate approvals have been granted will not constitute a habitable room and therefore make a difference to the price asked for a property.
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The success of the couple's venture will depend upon the local community buying into their dream. The Suffolk village of Mendelsham is where Simon grew up he then moved away to live in various parts of Britain to come back to the village where he spent his childhood years. Simon reminisces of his childhood days in Mendelsham and Karon who has spent much of her working life away looks forward to being home based.
The couple dream of a simple life but this will require an enormous amount of energy as well as large capital investment to bring their dreams into a reality.
My Dream Farm joins the couple at the start of spring with Monty Don meeting them to see if they have what it takes to turn them into farmers. They walk the land where the farm building will be located as well as the shop, gallery and café and lower down the field is where they intent to have their pigs. The area is called the stack yard as it was once where crops were stacked.
The couple's land is approximately thirteen acres with their first year concentrating on an area of one acre which runs along the road which is the main road of the village. This area will incorporate an area for pigs but first and foremost it will house the area for the barn building. Monty Don is interested in who will be responsible for the animals and it is Karon who is going to be in this role. Pigs can help with clearing land and making it ready for planting often more effectively than machinery but they only plan to have four pigs and Monty explains that with ten pigs they will do the job quicker and are no more work than having four. Pigs can be kept in a back garden with the appropriate paperwork but you will be required to keep at least two as they are sociable animals and require companionship with a minimum of ten square metres for two pigs. A rare breed pig can see up to six times their original purchase price if sold as high quality pork and rare breeds are ideal for a small farm. Mangalitza have a high percentage of fat so are ideal for salami but produce only half the young of other breeds.
Local Authority Planning Approval
Monty Don is concerned as the couple's plan is to incorporate a shop as Mendlesham already has a local store however the pigs he feels will attract people to the site. The art gallery and shop may not attract passers by, the couple may have issues with the Local Authority Planning Department and may be the locals will not buy into the local food that the couple wish to produce – this could all spell trouble. For the project to work and the couple's new lifestyle the whole concept needs to work with no one element to carry the rest of the plan.
The twelve acre field is currently rented to another farmer with the couple planning the following year to take back control of the land planting their own crops using sustainable farming methods. The couple have looked at the history of the land and found that the field was once three fields with hedges separating the land which is what they plan to reinstate. Monty Don is pleased to hear that they are planning on reinstating the hedgerows as these are a vital part of the countryside and improve the environment.
The couple plan to rely on passing trade for their produce which Monty Don is concerned about as he feels that this plan does not add up. Monty Don joins the couple at their house only four miles away from the farm where they explain they dream of a better quality of life even though it will be a hard lifestyle. The couple have employed a gentleman to help with the farm who has many years of experience and Monty talks to him to see if he believes the couple have what it takes to take on this new way of life. The couple lack experience in farming but what they lack they make up with enthusiasm for the new way of life.
The couple's plan is to rely more on the coffee shop and gallery than on the farm to make them a living however the barn is yet to be granted Planning Permission. Monty Don believes that the pigs are a positive way of growing the business if they can find a niche aspect to this part of their business. Monty Don on My Dream Farm also explains to the couple that if their business is to rely on passing trade they must involve themselves with the locals of Mendlesham which may however be a slow process.
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Testing the business model
Monty Don understands that the couple are wishing to have diversification on their farm but believes they should test out their ideas on a smaller scale to test to see what works. In the first year on their one acre with a few pigs and some vegetables they could test the local market showing the locals what they intend to do on a smaller scale prior to jumping into the full twelve acre site.
The couple need to attract people to their farm with a unique concept and animals can be a route to this end goal. The couple and their farm worker visit a farm in Nottinghamshire which began as a pig farm but to attract more customers diversified with chickens, goats, cattle and even lamas with a plan of visitors learning about the food we eat in a fun way. The farm in Nottinghamshire is so popular with a huge number of visitors each year with animals for show and for meat which is sold in the farm shop. School children are brought to the farm in buses to learn about animals and to have fun.
Simon is allotted to the farm shop and is challenged with working with the public which is something he has not done before. The couple from their visit see how a collection of animals draws the public to visit a farm and thereby brings revenue too.
The couple back at their farm have fenced off an area for their pigs which are now to be introduced in batches taking on Monty Don's proposal of a larger number with several rare breeds rather than one.
The farm is developing
Monty Don revisits the couple a month later Mangalitza and Tamworth pigs are in situ and Karon who was handling a thousand engineers is now in charge of a few pigs; what a contrast!
Monty Don's suggestion of a model version of the larger farm to be set up on the acre of land has not yet been put into action. The land still needs to be cleared further by digging the land; the soil is an awkward mix of sand and clay and will need organic matter to convert into soil to grow vegetables. Monty Don's idea is to use the Aztec method called The Three Sisters method of planting allowing farmers to grown complimentary vegetables together in a small plot. Pumpkins, sweetcorn and beans are planted using this method which creates a harmonious environment for the vegetables to flourish.
My Dream Farm anchor Monty Don explains to the couple that he wants to see the couple interacting with the locals as this is a vital activity for them to let the locals know what they are doing and for them to be seen to be doing something to join in with the local community. The idea is to have an event at the farm a party to celebrate what the couple are doing and plan to do as well as for them to interact with the local community.
The first event is for a local Primary School where the couple invite some of the children to see the pigs and the new piglets who are just three weeks old. The couple now have more pigs including a Saddleback and some Large Blacks adding to their farm.
The couple plan to source local products to sell in their shop including local cheese, jams, chutneys and fruit which as the produce has not had to travel far is environmentally friendly with a very small carbon footprint.
The couple have had a delivery of additional Tamworth pigs but they are not in a very good condition with mites and if not treated this could spread to all their pigs. The couple therefore treat the Tamworth pigs in the hope that their condition will improve.
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Planning Permission for their barn has been rejected which is an enormous problem to the couple the Council's main worry is that in the future if the farm was sold the barn could be turned into a supermarket and therefore have asked the couple to resubmit their plans. Karon meets with the Council and both sides make adjustments and after a long debate the feeling it the new plans should be granted all being well.
As Independent Surveyors we are happy to carry out structural surveys on all eras of property and have surveyed many farm houses over the years.
The event is taking place whereby the couple have produce on sale in the area where they are planning the barn with drawings of the barn for locals to see what their intentions are for the farm. The couple have a plant stall, BBQ food and fruit and vegetables for sale which have been sourced locally. The day signals the beginning of business at the farm with their intention to open daily from this point onwards; there is no turning back. The locals come out in force to visit the farm and the pigs are certainly an attraction and overall the locals are supportive.
The day to day business of running a farm has truly begun it will be repetitive and very different from the lifestyles they have left behind.
Monty Don returns to the farm in the autumn to see how the couple are coping with their new business and being farmers. The couple have learnt much from their model and work has begun on the twelve acre site to roll out their plan. The additional land will have a hundred pigs, tree nursery and vegetables dividing the area into three with hedgerows. The couple are business minded and not traditional farmers with a dream to work on the land and are committed to each other and to the venture their dream is becoming a reality.
My Dream Farm In summary
My Dream Farm is a fascinating series looking at farmland and farm property in a new way with individuals following their dreams and ambitions of becoming farmers. The series includes an Alpaca farm in Warwickshire and a Flower Farm in Kent with very different business models for new farming ventures.
Monty Don is a seasoned television presenter with several years presenting the well loved BBC 2 Gardener's World as well as many other television shows. Monty Don's knowledge of farming brings experience and expertise to advise the new farmers with their plans for their new ventures and is a perfect presenter/host to My Dream Farm.
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Commercial property surveyors
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We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).
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