Lee and Katharine Moran packed up their lives in London to discover a new one tucked away in the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, farming high welfare, grass-fed beef cattle.
With backgrounds in banking and teaching dance and Pilates, the transition to the countryside for Lee and Katharine initially started in 2009 when they bought a cottage in Crewkerne, a decision influenced by Katharine’s South West heritage.
“We were always on the lookout for a small farm or something similar,” comments Lee on their early years back in the South West. “Since being at university, working outdoors is what I knew I wanted, so farming always held an attraction. But not being from a farming family, it was difficult to instigate.” Fortunately, it only took a year for the couple to find the 33-acre Triffords Farm after making the initial move west, and a further two years before they moved in the latter part of 2012.
But farming full time wouldn’t happen as seamlessly for Lee. “Until very recently, I was still working part time in London, which influenced how much agricultural work I could do. Consequently, I had a local dairy farmer using my land to rear his own youngstock for eight years before I could fulfil my ambition.
“I learnt quite a lot about rearing cattle and managing farmland from him – skills such as hedge-laying, fencing and a fair bit about tractors. From the very beginning I was honest with him about my ‘great escape’ from the office to farm my own cattle and manage the land myself. What really accelerated this switch though was the Covid-19 pandemic,” explains Lee.
Having transitioned to working from home when lockdown struck, Lee came to the realisation the farm would never fully succeed if he retained his London job part-time. Farming part-time wasn’t a viable option. “I was still travelling to London quite often. When looking after livestock, you can’t really afford to be away!” comments Lee.
Preparing in advance for his new career, Lee bought four in-calf cows and heifers and two steers in April 2021, three months before resigning from his London job. “I chose Ruby Red Devon cattle. Friends who keep them locally told me they would be well suited to the farm’s sloping land. Unsurprising given their name!” And after sampling some of his friend’s produce, he noted the beef was ‘absolutely fantastic’.
Lee began selling produce in late 2021 and viewed supplying the market directly as the option with the greatest profit margins. At the moment, he sells to friends locally and online through the Triffords Farm website.
But this wasn’t without its difficulties. The historic development of Triffords Farm’s former barns into housing left Lee needing to build a new shed to house his cattle during the winter months. It took more than two years to gain the required planning permission. For other farming-related complexities such as the Basic Payment Scheme, Lee’s had nine years of educating himself on such matters.
Both before and since joining the agricultural industry, Lee’s awareness of its reputation is evident. “In recent years, the narrative on agriculture from the press has been quite negative and to some extent unfair. Every farm is different. There is a diverse range of farms in the UK, with most now working to become more environmentally friendly. We are doing well as a country to raise the majority of cattle on grass instead of grain,” comments Lee.
Lee wants his farm to be underpinned by his values of high environmental and welfare standards. “Our land is species rich and even home to the elusive brown hairstreak butterfly. Most of it has not been cultivated for decades, if ever, which is great for soil health and has resulted in permanent pasture supporting a diverse ecosystem.”
Reflecting this, he recently joined the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to identify where the management of his farm aligned with the government incentives. One example is how Lee has reduced the amount of hay and silage cut early in the year. This, together with grazing in shorter rotations, allows the grass and wildflowers to regenerate more easily. He also avoids using artificial fertiliser where possible. “I’m using a good deal of electric fencing to divide paddocks into smaller areas to facilitate shorter rotations,” explains Lee. “And I’ve discovered these new boundaries are similar to those shown on the tithe map from 200 years ago!”
Currently, the cows graze on permanent pasture during the summer months and are housed during winter. “I have recently planted a new woodland in an area adjacent to the grassland. I hope when the trees are sufficiently mature and provide the right environment, I can use some of the woodland for outwintering my cattle without destroying the pasture. This will give them the freedom to come and go from the shed during the winter.”
In addition to the plan of adding sheep to his farm, Lee hopes his woodland could provide the right environment to raise free-range chickens, geese or turkeys. Lee believes this can be successful alongside cattle.
On Cornish Mutual, Lee comments: “We have been with Cornish Mutual ever since we moved to Triffords Farm and I have been very happy with their excellent service.” As a result, Lee and Katharine have added their cars and farm vehicles to their existing home and basic farm insurance. Following a poor experience with another insurance provider, Lee has been delighted with the more personal approach taken by Cornish Mutual.
To find out more about Trifford's Farm and buy beef boxes or venison, visit https://www.triffordsfarm.co.uk