Meet some tenant farmers

Tenant farmers, Will and Jess

Tenant farmers, Will and Jess

Name:
Jess Collins and Will Jeans
Job:
Tenant farmers
Location:
Bohetherick Farm in the Tamar Valley

Jess and Will took on the Farm on the Devon/Cornwall border in 2009. Here are the ups and downs of their first year.

The farm is very close to where we both grew up. Will and I both studied our degrees in Rural Business Management at Duchy College, near Stoke Climsland, and then ran our cows on rented grass keep before tendering for Bohetherick.

Why become a Trust tenant?
We were attracted to the Trust because we felt they have more to offer than a traditional landlord – there is a great support network of people you can go to. Sustainable production is very important to us, for example, and the team at Cotehele is extremely helpful in supporting us in our aims.

The farm is quirky and offers many diversification options. We really relish the opportunity to revive and reinvigorate truly mixed farming in the area. While we get our feet on the ground, we both work outside the farm: Will as a relief milker and contract tractor driver, while I am a part-time agricultural instructor at Duchy College.

So how was the first year?
The truth? It was much more difficult than we expected! A very cold winter was hard on our cattle – especially as many of them had to winter out because we currently have very little housing on the farm. Then, the spring started much later, with the grass not really getting going until mid-April. On top of that, the Tamar Valley has a unique microclimate – it can get very dry.
The spring and summer rainfall had been scarce and so the grass was slow to keep up with the cows.

Those are the difficulties. On balance, we thoroughly enjoyed our first year here. We’ve done lots of the most pressing works, such as upgrading the fencing and giving the ancient orchards a good tidy up. And we had a ball at Open Farm Sunday as it was a chance for us to show off the work we have done so far. Next on our to-do list is renovating the cattle shed and building a cattle handling facility.

What’s in store?
Our long-term ambition is to produce and market the best the Tamar Valley has to offer – high quality beef, fruit and veg. We have already started supplying Cotehele with veg. Our cherries are just ripening so now it’s off to track down a cherry picker and try to get at them before the birds!