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HomeEditor's PicksCouple on starting a farming business in the throes of lockdown 1.0
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a fifth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the company in 2015.
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Couple on starting a farming business in the throes of lockdown 1.0

Matt and Floss from the Micklewaite flock feature in our first-generation farmer segment. The couple discuss growing their farm business, their passion for mental health and Herdwick sheep, and their desire to secure a tenant farm. 

Keen to build something for themselves, Matt (27) & Floss (30) began with just 3 sheep, and a small 5-acre area called the Micklewaite Meadow.

From that 5-acres and those 3 sheep two years ago, they now actively farm across 76-acres of land in various parcel sizes and have a flock count of just shy of 100 sheep.

The produce grass-reared lamb boxes, butchered, packed and delivered fresh to customers.
First-generation farmer 

The owners of the Micklewaite flock in the UK told That’s Farming:

“We started with a passion to produce, wanting to connect the public with where their food comes from and bring a taste of the Welsh way of life to Cambridgeshire.”

“Our sheep are predominantly grass-fed and outdoor reared. We farm regeneratively and sustainably moving pastures frequently, requiring a lot of electric fencing.”

“This year, 2021, we have been lucky enough even to take on some local conservation grazing to help aid regeneration.”

“We also are incredibly thankful to work closely with a local arable farmer who provides us with land on which to direct drill stubble turnips into a stubble wheat crop. This allows us to outwinter our lambs and provide better nutrition during the winter.”

Micklewaite flock, farming news, UK, first-generation farmer,

Part-time farmers 

Matt and Floss both work full-time within the agricultural industry; Floss on the administration side for a large agricultural business and Matt for a local arable farmer.

“To say we live, breathe, sleep and eat farming would be an overstatement because neither of us is really sure what sleep is anymore.”

“Our passion to build something for ourselves is what got us started. The people we have and continue to meet, spur us on to keep going.”

“It is not always plain sailing, from heavy snow and frost to extreme rain and then extreme heat. It has been challenging, but we would not have it any other way.”

Micklewaite flock, farming news, UK, first-generation farmer,

Mental health and Herdwick sheep

They are both passionate about different aspects of agriculture.

For Matt, it is his work with RABI and the mental health charity, Yellow Wellies.

He is keen to “highlight the need for not only better health and safety practices on-farm but also spotlighting the need for people to look after their own mental health and drawing attention to the fact it is ok not to be ok”.

For Floss, her passion is sheep through and through, particularly her flock of Herdwick ewes that she runs alongside their commercials.

“I started off just because I loved the breed. After having found that Beatrix Potter was a Herdwick sheep farmer, that settled it.”

“They are often referred to as ‘smiley’ sheep, but now it is more than that.”

“Their ability to utilise even the roughest pastures and their adaptability has meant adding a new element into our flock.”

“We are better equipped to regeneratively and sustainably farmland that previously was not utilised effectively”.

Micklewaite flock, farming news, UK, first-generation farmer,

The next challenge

Matt and Floss are actively looking to take the next leap and hope to get a farm tenancy together.

“It is a hard task with more and more smaller farms being sold off but not having a cool £1mil + in the bank account, a tenant farm is our only option.”

“It is nice to see a lot of councils encouraging new entrants into farming and to apply for farm tenancies. But unfortunately, this is not always the case when it comes down to it.”

The reality is, they added, there are not a lot of resources out there for first-generation farmers who aspire to seek a farm tenancy.

“I am amazed that there isn’t yet a greater emphasis on share farming agreements.”

“For the older generation who are moving out of farming to share knowledge and expertise with the next generation and also to open up land and tenancy opportunities that otherwise would not be accessible, I feel like this is a huge failing for the industry as a whole that all of this knowledge, expertise and experience is just going to be lost with no one to be passed down to.”

“We will not be stopped or swayed, though. Therefore, we plan to have a farm or opportunity before Matt’s 30th birthday. We will make it happen. Hopefully, then be able to share hints and tips for others who want to pursue something similar.”

Further information 

Follow Matt & Floss on Facebook.

Are you a first-generation farmer? To share your story with That’s Farming, email our editor, Catherina Cunnane – catherina@thatsfarming.com

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