Jon and Lynne Perkin have proved what can be achieved with sheer hard work and determination. It’s just five years since they moved from Jon’s family’s farm in Cornwall and took on a 15-year FBT at this 800ha (2000-acre) organic holding at Low Luckens Farm, Roweltown, 12 miles north east of Carlisle, where landlords Mike and Ruth Downham have created a well-known organic resource and sustainable living centre.
Jon took an NDA in Agriculture, but felt farming would not provide him with a future. So he went to university and emerged with a degree in Speech Therapy.
He knew the family farm in Cornwall couldn’t support him, but he also realised at university that farming was the only thing he really wanted to do.
Chance to farm
So, refocused on farming and, now married to Lynne, he took a job managing an organic farm in Berkshire. But he never stopped looking for a chance to farm in his own right.
“We searched and searched. We needed a farm with an opportunity to bring in income from a diversification project to justify the money we’d have to borrow. We had almost given up when we heard about Low Luckens, but it didn’t present a clear diversification option,” says Jon.
Hidden deep in this remote part of Cumbria and not on any tourist route, the farm sounds like a non-starter as far as diversification is concerned. But not for the Perkins. In the past five years their innovation and effort have created an organic meat retailing and butchery business that turns over £250,000 a year and employs four full-time staff.
“We knew our strengths – organic farming and traditional breeds – and we had to make them work. This is a beautiful place to live and bring up children, although it wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice for this type of diversification. But we had to get a place and get into farming.”
Through customer recommendation, farmers’ markets and via internet sales, the beef, lamb and pork from Low Luckens Farm is now retailed throughout Cumbria and as far north as Newcastle. And this enterprising couple have achieved such a rapport with their customers that they now have increasing numbers paying by standing order every month.
The Perkins, who have two boys, Matthew (three) and Alex (one), run just 20 Galloway cows and 11 Saddleback and Tamworth sows. They buy-in native-bred store cattle for finishing and about 300 organic store lambs. The land is heavy, mainly clay and all severely disadvantaged. The farm is entering a 12-year HLS scheme that puts 50% of the land into habitat and grassland management to generate £120,000 in total.
Meat is delivered to supply weekly and monthly orders. “We wanted to afford staff to do the work we didn’t want to do – or that we weren’t very good at – and actually enable us to do the farming.”
The butchery business supports the farm and is now providing butchery facilities for other farmers. The Perkins now slaughter about 50 cattle a year for their own customers, but the butchery is handling about three cattle a week for other farmers.
“We have some big debts to clear, but we still have plans about where we see ourselves in the future – ideally, owning our own farm. So we keep looking to see what other opportunities are out there. There have been moments when we’ve questioned everything, but you have to keep focused. My advice to any young person wanting to farm is to keep believing in yourself. With sheer graft it is achievable”.