Sunnymead farm is a small 4th generation farm, now being managed by Emily and Brendan. The farm is located just outside of Wivenhoe on the road to Alresford. In the past the farm has solely been arable production. Three years ago when we took over, we decided to introduce a number of rare breed species on the farm. Emily has always had a huge passion for animals and has worked at many charities, and now full time at Colne valley vets. Its this passion that has driven us to provide great local produce that is raised in a spacious ethical manor. We have now been selling our pork and lamb for one year and have been at Wivenhoe market for this time. We also sell our produce directly from the farm.
Since being at the farm we have introduced sheep, pigs, water buffalo, chickens, ducks and olives. We still have 50acres of arable land still in production but the majority of that goes to a neighbouring farmer, we also grow our own wheat and beans to feed the buffalo in winter and the chickens all year round. Apart from our Water buffalo which are only housed in the winter to keep them out the cold, all our animals are kept outdoors throughout the year in as close to a natural manor as possible. We believe that a free range system works best and allows the best flavour to come through in the meat. We have pork, lamb and mutton available all year round, and soon will have Water buffalo to add to the list.
Our pork mainly comes from rare breed Berkshire pigs that are free range, we also have oxford sandy and black sows which we cross with our Berkshire boar. This cross is aimed at producing flavoursome bacon and gammon. This is still in progress and hopefully the results will be seen next year. The pigs are kept in temporary electric fencing, with home-made houses and get moved every 2-3 weeks to new patches of land to turn over, this helps with the cultivations of field and means we rely less on our tractors for field work. Berkshire pork is considered by some to be the “Kobe beef” of the pig world as the marbling in the meat creates tonnes of flavour.
Our sheep are Castlemilk Moorit which are very rare. They are kept outdoors all year round and unlike conventional breeds the lambs take 14-18 months to get to weight and even then they have lighter carcasses. This results in very flavoursome lamb unlike any in a supermarket, it is also much leaner. We also have mutton available at certain times of the year, and will soon be able to offer this year round. They are raised on grass, and hay during winter months but they do get a handful of nuts to get the ewes to weight for lambing and to catch the sheep for shearing etc…
The Water buffalo here at Sunnymead farm are very hardy and we keep them outdoors on grass and stubble fields for as long as possible in the winter months. Because it’s so dry on the farm, we supplementary feed hay whenever the grass is scarce. We continue to create more pasture on the farm and this allows us to reduce our hay usage. We house the buffalo over the coldest months of the year for their protection, they get hay and silage throughout the housing period. Their winter diet is supplemented with fodder beet and a home-made mixture of grains from the farm, this allows them to maintain condition. We have 2 lakes and a reservoir that the buffalo get to wallow in during the summer, this further allows them to exhibit their natural behaviour. As with the sheep the buffalo can take up to 36 months to get to weight. Buffalo meat has similar characteristics of conventional beef with a slight gamey taste, however it contains about a quarter of the cholesterol and fat. Consumers seeking healthier lifestyles, continue to increase the demand for buffalo meat.
We also have many environmental areas on the farm. There is 40 acres of woodland, 3 lakes with islands, reed-beds and a cliff face, Wildflower meadows and margins around all arable fields. We have also recently planted 11000 trees for new wooded areas and hedgerows. There is also 20acres of heathland recently established. These areas help to encourage Turtle doves, Lapwings, Terns, bees, invertebrates, birds of prey, numerous water birds and sand martins. Maintaining these environments is made easier by using the farm animals.