For Michael and Di Hine, adding turkeys to their third generation 440-acre beef and sheep farm near Chard in Somerset has helped them provide work for their three sons. They are now in their 19th year of farming turkeys, which they supply to local butchers and farm shops for Christmas.
The family, which also runs an agricultural contracting business, inherited the turkey farm when Michael’s aunt and uncle retired. Starting out with 350 turkeys, the family now rear around 1,600, including seven different strains of bronze and white turkeys, which grow to different sizes.
Di Hine says: “We’re all about the traditional farm fresh turkey. You can’t get away from the move towards convenience and throw-away culture, but we are still committed to doing it properly. Our private sales grow every year so local people do support us. The 23rd December is collection day when everyone comes up to the farm to collect their turkeys for Christmas. It’s the one day of the year when people come onto the farm to buy direct from us.”
While their three sons are back working with them after finishing college, the Hine’s nine-year-old daughter is already taking an interest on the farm.
“The turkeys fell into place to fill a gap during the winter months when the contracting side of the business goes quiet,” explains Michael. “Each thing has a seasonal job and it all fits in with our business. All in all, with the sheep, cattle, turkeys and contracting, there’s plenty to keep us busy. Our three boys have all been to college and are working for us now. We’ve expanded what we do to accommodate them in the business.”
The family is looking at different ways to sell their turkeys in the future, including the possibility of internet sales. Michael says: “It was only a small farm – about 65 acres – when my grandfather started it. Me and Di have built the business up over the years. You can’t get stuck in a rut, you’ve got to keep adapting and move with the times. You don’t just rear a load of turkeys and think you can sell them just before Christmas. You need to keep planning ahead.”
Di and Michael have been Cornish Mutual Members for around 15 years. Michael says: “Cornish Mutual have always been good to us and a pleasure to deal with. They’ve been there for us as we’ve adapted and grown the farm.”
Philip Wilson, Sales & Operations Leader for Cornish Mutual says: “When we first started working with Michael and Di, the turkey farm was just a small part of their business. It’s been fantastic to see it grow over the years, with loyal support from the local community. Alongside the success of the turkey farm, they have significantly grown their agricultural contracting business. Having first met the family when their children were small it is great to see how the farm has expanded to accommodate their three sons. By growing the business they are managing to continue to run it as a true family farm.
“More than half of the people who responded to our recent research said they would be buying locally produced meat this Christmas. With the growing numbers of private orders choosing farm fresh turkeys from the Hine’s farm, it is clear that many people are interested in the provenance of their food. When you buy from farmers like Di and Michael you know you are not just getting great quality produce but are also supporting a local family.”
“I think people just want to know where their produce has come from,” adds Di. “We get a lot of good reports back every year and some people say it’s the best turkey they’ve ever had.”