Right (in order of interestingness) a little about the land, a little about the family and, finally, a little about me.
The smallholding is 24 acres of species rich Culm grassland (it’s pretty boggy), split into 12 small fields. We maintain the species diversity of the land with the help of Devon Wildlife Trust and Natural England. Doing what’s best for our local wildlife is a really important aspect of what we are trying to do here.
Apart from chainsaw and quad-bike the majority of the hard graft is done with human or animal labour. We have three heavy horses who help out with logging and managing our two acres of woodland.
As well as the horses we keep ducks, chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and a local farmer friend runs his cattle on our land as low stocking of cows on our grassland allows the wild flowers to thrive. As anybody who knows anything about smallholding will tell you: variety is key. We try and make the most of the land in a way that continues to sustain it, rather than bleeding it dry, which would be no good for anyone!
We grow our own fruit and veg and do our own preserving. The house and office are stocked to the brim with cordials, chutneys and jams come autumn. If you’ve never tried homemade chilli jam or green bean chutney then, at some point, head to a farmer’s market and ruthlessly hunt some down. They are the bomb.
All of the above contributes to an environment that is great for mental and physical wellbeing. My step mum, being a darn good Occupation Therapist (OT), quickly recognised this and has designed the smallholding around being a Care Farm (if you don’t know about Care Farms then have a look here). Marginalised adults from the local community- whether that means depression, learning disabilities, PTSD or anything else that may alter how a person interacts with day to day life – come and help out on the land. Being engaged in meaningful projects, being part of a team and seeing how your effort literally changes the landscape is a really amazing feeling and provides direction and motivation where before it may have been lacking.
Me and my boyfriend decided to return to the smallholding when our direction and motivation began seriously lacking. That meant moving in with my Dad, my step-mum and my two much younger siblings. My step-mum is an OT (as mentioned) and my Dad … well, my Dad is a bit of an eccentric. He has a degree in sustainable design and is currently building tiny houses on the land. He has many varied interests including: writing, wild plants and mushrooms, copper work, welding, green woodwork, engineering, building things, working horses, politics, spirituality, economics, education, food (both eating and growing) the environment and making a society that works. Basically if you need somebody to invent something, then write a poem about it, then pull up in an absurd place because he needs to jump out of the car and pick some chanterelles (very yummy mushrooms) that he saw on that hedgerow back there then my Dad’s the man for the job.
My younger sister Lou and my little brother Peep are both truly amazing, as all children are, and they are spoilt rotten growing up here (whether they realise it or not).
Right, me. I’m a history graduate who was brought up between the seaside town of Bude (where my Mum lives) and this smallholding right here. I studied in Bristol and lived there for a year or two after graduating, beginning a career in marketing. Me and the (wonderful) boyfriend decided that city life wasn’t for us and decided to pack up and move here, were I’ve decided to put more effort into writing. It’s hard not to write actually, with all the interest events that unfold each and every day.
Going forward we plan to invest in some bee hives – me and Dad have just finished a bee keeping course – and we hope to milk our goats to provide at least some of our own dairy. If you’d like to get in touch then please do on my contact page.
Beth and the Coope Farm Crew