Clive Sage recalls returning to the family farm in West Dorset following a stint working abroad as an agricultural college graduate. “I’d spent 18 months working on dairy farms in New Zealand and I was driving back along the coast road from Dorchester,” he says. “I remember turning to my father and saying ‘I knew I was missing something’. And this is something a bit special.’”
Situated near Monkton Wyld, overlooking Lyme Bay, Wyld Meadow Farm sits just above land which was farmed by Clive’s parents and where he grew up.
Clive and his wife Jo established the farm 20 years ago and then built the farm house which is also home to their two teenage children. With seven Gold Taste of the West awards under its belt, Wyld Meadow Farm prides itself on producing the highest quality lamb and beef reared using traditional farming methods.
The farm is home to a small suckler herd of beef cattle and around 500 ewes, including a number of Poll Dorsets – an early-lambing breed that is unique to the county – as well as Poll Dorset and Texel crossbreeds, which enables the family to produce lamb all year round.
The sheep graze on herbal maritime grasses on the farm’s steep fields. Clive is also proud that it supports a wide diversity of wildlife, including bird life, rare wildflowers and 20 species of butterflies.
Clive took his environmental approach a step further five years ago by installing a five megawatt solar farm that feeds into the local power station. The panels are positioned so that the sheep are free to graze underneath. “It’s a win-win situation,” says Clive. “I can keep using it for agriculture, but also produce green energy.”
Wyld Meadow Farm primarily sells directly to customers and employs a part-time butcher to work on site. As well as selling through its website, which involves sending mail orders across the UK, they take their lamb and beef to agricultural shows and food festivals.
“We have a lot of repeat business,” says Clive. “That’s probably what’s most satisfying. We’re producing a product from start to finish and we get customers saying it’s the best lamb or beef they’ve had for a long time. The proof is in the eating and if your customers are happy and you’re producing what they want, then you’re obviously doing the job right.”
Clive believes his customers appreciate quality and traceability. “It’s about having trust in the farmer and knowing where their meat comes from. There have been so many food scares over the years when people have been misled. I think people just want, if possible, to cut out the middle man and buy directly from the producer. Then the customer knows exactly where it’s coming from and can give you feedback. What’s so gratifying is, over the years, we’ve had wonderful feedback and it just makes our job so much more worthwhile when we’ve got a happy customer.”
Wyld Meadow Farm has been insured by Cornish Mutual for the last 20 years. Clive says: “So many farmers are diversifying and looking for new avenues, so I’m really pleased that Cornish Mutual have adapted to this and moved with the times. They have been really supportive of our ventures, insuring the solar farm as well as the sheep and beef farm.”
Philip Wilson, Business Development Leader, of Cornish Mutual adds: “We are really pleased to have supported Wyld Meadow Farm over the last two decades. Like them, Cornish Mutual has had to evolve and adapt in order to be resilient. We are proud to support our Members as they respond to new challenges and opportunities.”
Reflecting again on his return to the family farm as a 20-year-old graduate, he says: “I did take it for granted. I wanted to spend some time away before I went to work for my Dad and being abroad was brilliant as it gave me an understand of how other people farm. It’s only when you’re away and you haven’t got something that you know what you’re missing though.
“West Dorset in an area of outstanding natural beauty and being out in the sunlight and on the land with the animals and the wildlife makes you realise what a beautiful place we live in.
“You have the seasons - some are quite tough and some are absolutely wonderful. It’s about being able to appreciate being out in the open air and working with the animals, even when you’re in the lambing shed at 3 o’clock in the morning.
“It is a way of life which isn’t for anyone, but the job satisfaction is quite amazing.”