12 inspirational people in Gloucestershire farming and agriculture

Nothing has shaped the face of Gloucestershire like its agriculture – and the county continues to produce crop-upon-crop of inspirational figures.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Gloucestershire's farming and agriculture sector not only continues to shape the face of the county, but lead from the front with its passion, technological developments, and sheer talent.
Gloucestershire's farming and agriculture sector not only continues to shape the face of the county, but lead from the front with its passion, technological developments, and sheer talent.

Gloucestershire has a strong reputation for engineering, cyber, tech and manufacturing businesses – but nothing has shaped the county quite like its agriculture.

To showcase the sector, we tapped the fonts of knowledge at Hartpury College and University, the Royal Agricultural University, Farm491 and the NFU. And, with their help, and the support of Frank Smith Solicitors, we have complied a definitive list which demonstrates the breadth and depth of farming and agriculture talent we are so lucky to have here in Gloucestershire.

Adam Henson from Cotswold Farm Park

Known to millions as a presenter of the popular BBC1 television programme Countryfile, Adam Henson is also the face of Cotswold Farm Park, otherwise known as Bemborough Farm near Guiting Power, Gloucestershire.

Born and bred on that very farm he has helped turn it into the hugely popular family attraction it is today. Henson continues to champion agriculture, the issues it faces, rare breeds and the wonders of a farming life.

Sam Phillips from The Cotswold Mobile Dairy Ltd

Sam Phillips is spearheading a new mobile dairy initiative, The Cotswold Mobile Dairy Ltd, directly linked to Macaroni Farm in Cirencester and its high welfare sheep system and fully organic regenerative farming system.

Phillips completed the Worshipful Company of Farmers programme at the Royal Agricultural University.

David Wilson from Fir Farm

David Wilson, of Fir Farm, near Cheltenham, has transitioned from a large dairy business to an organic mixed livestock farm, fully integrated with a pasture-fed beef herd, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry.

The farm also grows organic arable crops as feed for the poultry and pigs, ensuring that all its animals are fed solely on food produced on the farm. He is described by the RAU as ‘a great ambassador’ for farming.

Charles Martell from Charles Martell & Sons

Charles Martell is a legend in his own lifetime in the world of food and farming in Gloucestershire. The former High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, he has also found the spotlight numerous times for his day-job, not least of which involves creating the cheese Stinking Bishop, made famous in the Wallace and Gromit films.

As well as a master cheesemaker he is a serious farmer, champion of rare breeds, an accomplished distiller of pear and apple-related spirits. And then there is his orchard of rare British apples saved from extinction and his passion for the slow food movement. The list goes on.

Charlie Whitehouse from Bradley Farm

Charlie Whitehouse’s Wotton-under-Edge business is described as ‘highly progressive’ farming business. It now occupies 840ha (2075 acres), largely rented from 15 different landlords.

The key enterprise is a 1,000-head dairy goat herd, housed all year round. The goat herd shares the farm with a large sheep operation, with pedigree Charollais and Lleyn flocks plus cross-bred commercial ewes. These have produced a stamp of lamb that supplies the Mayhill Lamb Producers Group. There are also 1,600 store lambs finished off forage crops and herbage seed leys.

Ben Thompson from Hartpury College and Hartpury University

Ben Thompson is only 28, but the Agri-Tech Centre manager at Hartpury University and Hartpury College in Gloucestershire. He has extensive experience within the agri-tech sector covering national and international research projects, business development and commercial practice.

Ben’s experience which has been supported by a background in practical farm management within mixed farming systems. He is described as having ‘a determination to contribute to sustainability within the agriculture sector through my work; to solve current and future industry challenges’.

Jess Vaughan from Jess’s Ladies Organic Farm Milk

Jess Vaughan has blazed a trail in turning the output of her British Friesians and Brown Swiss cows on her family’s Hardwicke farm into cult ingredients. As well as the milk, her cream, yogurt and kefir are revered for their rich, untampered flavours. Vaughan’s secret? ‘A small herd of happy cows’ known affectionately as Jess’s Ladies.

Her products are mostly sold at farm shops and Co-ops in the south-west and Midlands, new distributors have now made nationwide shipping possible, starting with overnight kefir deliveries, ordered online.

Dominie Fearn from The Wild Hare Group

Founder and director of Cheltenham-based The Wild Hare Group, Dominie Fearn is a champion of both sustainable food producers and the very best of British farming. Think ready meals, then imagine the absolute antithesis, convenience meals made with the finest produce from British agriculture and farming.

Pioneered by Fearn, The Wild Hare Group’s meals range from vegetarian butternut squash curry and cauliflower and chickpea dhal to British red Wine braised chuck steak and classics like shepherd’s pie.

Kitty Stainsby from Wye Organic

Kitty Stainsby is originally from Sussex, but she transferred to Gloucestershire from a degree in criminology to follow her true passion – farming. Not from a farming background, she fell in love with the idea while helping out in a lambing shed, and went on to graduate from Hartpury University.

She is now a first-generation farmer in the Forest of Dean, near Ruardean, with her partner, James. Her business, Wye Organic, aims to produce 100 per cent pasture-fed, organic beef and lamb as well as organic no-dig vegetables.

Professor Tom Macmillan from the Royal Agricultural University

Tom Macmillan is described as highly influential in agriculture and food policy and was instrumental in developing the National Food Strategy. The Gloucestershire-based professor is focused on informing national and international policy relating to the land-based sector, the environment and food.

Tom was previously director of innovation at the Soil Association, founded the Innovative Farmers network, and is head of research for the RSA Food, Farming & Countryside Commission and deputy director of The National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE).

Ian and Cathy Boyd, and daughter Steph Ackrill from Whittington Lodge Farm

Cathy and Ian Boyd farm Pedigree Hereford cattle on Whittington Lodge Farm near Cheltenham with the help of their youngest daughter, Steph Ackrill.

The third-generation farmers use what they call ‘regenerative methods’, focusing on the soil to produce what they believe passionately to be a more environmentally friendly way of farming – and a better product.

Selling beef started almost by accident 11 years ago and the family has now turned some of its land over to wildflower meadows to help it produce 100 per cent pasture fed cattle.

Charlie Beldam from Cotswold Gold

Charlie Beldam, a farmer’s son and enthusiastic foodie, set up Cotswold Gold in 2010 as a diversification venture based around his family’s arable farm near Broadway.

The farm was already producing high quality rapeseed and Mr Beldam wanted see if this crop could be made into a quality end product that would inspire the food industry and promote British farming. Its Cotswold Gold rapeseed oil is a premium extra virgin rapeseed oil rich in omega three, six and nine and low in cholesterol.

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