Farming feature: Verity has no regrets after quitting London job to be a farmer
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Verity Sharp says she has no regrets about giving up a well-paid job in London to pursue her dream of running her own farm in north Essex.
The 29-year-old, whose husband, Michael, works as a farrier during the week, worked for a travel PR firm in London for about five years where she was an account manager.
She and Michael established Broomhills Farm at Pebmarsh, near Halstead, from scratch in 2010. They had just seven acres of bare fields, a stable and a tin shed and decided to rear beef cattle, in order to do something with the grass that was there, starting with just 10 store cattle.
In the beginning, Michael looked after them around his day job, while Verity lived in London during the week to avoid the punishing commute, working the farm at the weekends.
But about six years ago, she decided to quit the London job and devote herself full-time to building the business.
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“It wasn’t really me,” she said. “I found it (farming) is a little bit more real, and it’s rewarding as well.”
She now has an eight-month-old son, Archie. Her parents, Denise and Chris Chamley, run an arable operation with some sheep three miles up the road in Pebmarsh.
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“It was either we push on with the farm or I stay in London,” she says.
“I have always had a passion for farming. To be honest I think what they say is true: it is in your blood. My family farm and have done for generations. My father is still young and retiring is not on the agenda.”
Now Verity and Michael are calving 60 beef cows, have about 150 head of cattle on site, and now have some more land - about 200 acres. They have been supported by the Layzell Trust, a charity which helps young people into farming, with 90 acres grazing in Cornard over five years - “a vital lifeline”. They hope to expand further.
Verity has also recently completed a masters in arable crop management and production, and although adding arable to the operation is not on the agenda just yet, one day she would like to build it into a mixed farm. As well as juggling the demands of child-rearing, Verity helps her father on his farm.
Meanwhile, she has been developing the Broomhills Farm brand, and selling meat direct to the public wherever she can.
“It has snowballed. We are always looking for new ways to add value to the beef and lamb we produce,” she says.
“It has its challenges but it is rewarding and I feel the future for farming is exciting. I really enjoy direct selling to the public, which we do from our farm here in Pebmarsh and country shows such as the Hadleigh and Young Farmers Show. I get asked so many questions and people are really interested to see the animals and understand where their meat comes from.”
Because of this, she decided to team up with the butchers, Hards of Halstead, to show people how the meat they eat goes from field to fork.
The one day course starts on the farm, where those signed up can see the animals, how they are reared and meet the farmer to ask any questions, before heading to the farmhouse for a cookery demonstration, a “big feast” lunch and butchery demonstration in the afternoon.
Verity admits there are challenges to being a woman farmer, particularly in the cattle industry.
“It’s a bit harder. You find you have to fight your corner a little bit,” she said. “They are shocked when you can reverse a grain trailer.”
But while she does stand out a bit at the market in Colchester, most people are kind, she added.
“There’s never a dull moment. It’s going well. We have had a really good calving.”
Verity will be running the meat courses on April 22, May 6 and June 3. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.broomhills-farm.co.uk