Farmer Focus: Building bridges with foreign visitors

The past few weeks on the farm have had something of an international flavour. We kicked off June with visitors from the US restaurant group Chipotle.

It’s a Mexican-themed chain that originated in Colorado 25 years ago, but now has its headquarters in Southern California – yes, the place famous for its sunshine.

Well, to say the English weather let us down is an understatement. It bucketed down.

Their hotel-loaned golf umbrellas were no match for the torrential Norfolk rain, and it wasn’t long before they were heading back to the dry haven of our almost marooned vehicles.

The reason for the visit was to gain an improved knowledge of our pig-breeding system – the theory being that some of the pork we help produce could one day end up on their customers’ plates.

Chipotle is a firm advocate of natural farming methods, and of reducing antibiotics use.

See also: How outdoor pig producers can safeguard drinking water

The visit was a washout (no thanks to the English weather), but they certainly went away knowing that our work is no walk in the park.

Turn the clock forward two weeks and we entertained our second group of overseas visitors, this time from Portuguese company Go Organic. Thankfully, it was warm and dry this time.

Possibly not as warm as they are used to, but pleasant enough to spend three or four hours touring the farms and talking in-depth about the very different challenges we face.

I am sure that sharing knowledge and experiences first-hand is an essential part of good planning. It soon became apparent that, despite our systems being worlds apart, we still share common ground in our passion to produce pigs to the highest welfare standards possible.

They will soon be using the insulated farrowing arks that we have introduced across both our farms. These arks will allow them to not only rear and finish pigs outside, but also to breed outside, despite extreme summer temperatures.

They already make extensive use of tree canopies and grass to provide shade, effectively farming their pigs in parkland very similar to the way estate farmed deer are kept in the UK.


Rob manages an outdoor pig operation in north Norfolk.