Under wide Cambridgeshire skies, farmer Lance Charity is approaching ‘peak busy’. The harvest from his fields is followed by the ‘harvest’ from his sheep in September’s lambing. Plus, there’s his weekly door-to-door delivery of his fresh farm eggs. YANA asks how it all fits together and what he does to cope with the pressures and make sure that those he cares about are coping too.
“I run a mixed farm with both crops and livestock. I wouldn’t want to do just one or the other. It’s about stacking enterprises on the land that I’ve got. My 150 breeding sheep and my chickens move around the farm following the crops.
I deliver eggs from my hundred hens direct to local customers every Friday. I enjoy it. It’s a good margin and I like to share what I’m farming and make people aware of what is good food. And also they can feel trust in me.
Local and grass fed
To shoppers and meat eaters, I say buy grass-fed, local to you. Get to know the farmer or butcher. Some of our lamb goes directly to our local villages and I get to tell them how it’s produced. Most of the meat I produce goes through Waitrose as they want Dorset lamb to help them to sell British lamb all year round.
I’ve kept several types of sheep but of the 65 UK sheep breeds I’ve chosen the Poll Dorset. They’re big sheep, good mothers, produce good milk for their lambs and are docile and hardy. Their unique trait is they can breed any time of year and I choose them to have their lambs in September.
Mid-late summer they feed on grass alongside a long, long stretch of riverbank. We use electric fencing to divide the fields up into smaller blocks. I move them regularly to a fresh block, every 3-5 days, giving the grass time to re-grow.
On the move
Close to lambing, I move my ewes to a mixture I’ve planted so they’ll get grass and extra herbs and proteins they need. They don’t get any bought in feed. When they’ve had their lambs in September, they’re moved onto a clover mix which is great for our sheep but is also really good for farm wildlife, the birds and bees.
As soon as my grain harvest is finished, I plant what’s called a cover crop, a multi species mix that grows through the winter on the arable land for them to graze on until March when it all starts again as the grass grows in Spring.
Family is important
There are a lot of pressures. I get a lot of support from my partner, Amy. I have a young family as well as all these enterprises on the farm. I get up early, get my jobs done, see to my other decisions and problems later in the day. But make time for family, that’s so important to me.
Playing rugby is my stress relief. I play for Peterborough. Being among people outside of farming and talking about different things really helps.
But, how are you?
Keeping in balance is hard for farmers. I have a good friend down south, a dairy farmer, who’s having a hard time. He was telling me about his problems over the phone. And I just asked “But how are you?”. He said, “Actually, no one’s asked me if I’m okay”. And it made him think about if he’s okay. We spent a few minutes talking about that. And I’d like to think that some good has come from that.”
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