Jon Perkin and his wife Lynne took up their tenancy of Old Parsonage Farm in March 2015.
A former Bicton student, Jon Perkin has farmed organically for 15 years in Wiltshire and Cumbria after farming sheep and goats in Greece.
Well, five weeks have already passed since we moved in to Old Parsonage Farm and it only seems like five minutes!
A fact that apparently has not passed Harriet by, who has been gently reminding me that I have yet to submit my first blog. So here it is!
Lynne, myself and are two boys are delighted and excited to be here at Dartington and for me particularly, it’s somewhat like coming home. Many years ago I used to spend a great deal of time in Dartmouth with family, often stopping along the way to watch events at Dartington. To be back here, but this time to live, is indeed a great pleasure.
WATCH: Jon Perkin talks about the exciting plans for the future at Old Parsonage:
But a new chapter in our lives brings with it the somewhat formidable challenge of establishing a thriving and diverse farming business. Many of you will already be aware we will be milking once again at Old Parsonage, but not only cows, but goats!
Pictures of the first kidlings to arrive have been posted on the Dartington Facebook page and they are a delight to have around! I spent a couple of years milking sheep and goats in Greece and have always wanted to return to it here in the UK. Only now has the opportunity and demand for goats milk allowed me to achieve that goal.
Elsewhere on the farm we have managed to get the contractors to plough and drill all of last year’s stubble fields. The crops have now established and the more observant of you – although it’s not hard to miss – will have noticed lines or ‘misses’ through many of the fields.
These are not some elaborate tramline system to allow for spraying, as we won’t be doing any field scale spraying, but rather the result of blocked drill tubes that the seed is dispensed through, leading to bare patches on the earth.
This is generally speaking more of an embarrassment for the individual responsible for the drilling (I won’t name and shame!), rather than a huge determent to the crop, although it’s true it will have an effect on the overall yield not just through less growing space, but through allowing weeds to get a hold in the spaces left open. Those involved can now look forward to an entire season of reminders and mick-taking!
A third of this year’s crops will be a mixture of barley and peas which will be harvested a few weeks earlier than normal to be crimped and ensiled along with the grass silage. This will be fed to the cows and goats throughout the winter months.
The rest is an arable silage crop of, again, barley and forage peas, but this is also undersown with a mixture of red and white clover leys*. The main aim of this exercise is to produce a strong, medium term, clover grass ley, but the addition of the arable silage not only provides a silage crop at about 12 weeks, but also protects the grass seed from weeds etc while it is establishing. Once the silage has been removed, the grass should, weather permitting, shoot away and become the future grazing and cutting leys of the farm.
The cows will hopefully arrive in July, once we have made alterations to the milking parlour, but in the meantime we are undertaking a huge cleaning and repairing operation around the farm buildings.
Amongst other things we have started giving the place a new paint job, so if there’s any volunteers out there who don’t mind splashing about a bit of paint, we’d gladly welcome you around! I can assure you of plenty of cups of tea and a regular goat fix!
*Clover grown in forage leys offer a cheap alternative to nitrogen fertiliser and provides a homegrown source of protein.