Early on in their relationship, Sarah and Ian Davies discovered they shared a dream - to have a goat farm.
That dream became a reality in 2010, when the couple bought a piece of land near Wells in Somerset and called it Wookey Farm. Starting out with 12 dairy goats, the farm now produces a growing range of goat dairy and meat products, alongside a 2.5 acre family campsite.
Sarah, who grew up on a small Somerset farm in the Brendon Hills, says: “My mum loved goats and always kept one or two nannies, so we always had goats’ milk. As children we got to see all the births and just really enjoyed being around goats.
“Ian grew up on a large dairy farm in Wales but later, had some experience of working with goats and found them so inquisitive and friendly and much easier to handle than cows. Twenty years later, he met me and he said it was his dream to have goats and I thought ‘Yes, that sounds great!’.
“I was working as a music teacher, which I loved, but I wanted to get back into the countryside, so we embarked on our goat farm together.”
Wookey Farm now has around 150 goats, with a mix of different breeds, including British Toggenburgs, which are known for their creamy milk, and Saanens, which produce a large quantity of milk. The couple started selling bottled milk, yoghurts and smoothies before developing a range of cheeses.
Situated just eight miles from Cheddar Gorge, with panoramic views of the Mendip Hills, Wookey Farm now produces a growing variety of goats’ milk versions of some of the world’s most popular cheeses, including halloumi and brie. The farm also makes a popular hard cheese, using the same cutting, turning and shredding process that is used to create Cheddar cheese.
The milk initially goes into a one-thousand-litre tank, and Sarah processes and packs all the cheeses on site in a purpose-built space called ‘the cheese room’. As it has windows, visitors can watch the entire process.
Sarah explains that the milk is not homogenised. “The milk is very gently pasteurised in a batch to retain the goodness and it has a lovely layer of cream,” she says.
“We don’t give our goats any artificial hormones or antibiotics. They feed outside in the summer on grass. We’re trying to make it as natural a process as possible for our animals and our products.”
Sarah and Ian have also recently adding a Boer billy goat, the breed best known for meat, to their growing herd.
Sarah says: “We’re very much an open farm and I’m really passionate about everybody knowing where their food comes from and what it takes to produce that food. I’m a meat eater and I really want people to understand the life the animal has had and to know that the welfare of that animal has been really important to us.”
Along with milk, yoghurt and cheese, goat meat is popular with Wookey Farm’s campers over the summer months. The farm has a small shop to sell to campers and other visitors, and Sarah also sells their products through local farm shops and at the many farmers markets in the local area, including Wells and Frome.
The couple encourages campers to get involved with farm life, by watching the goats being milked as well as spending time with the other animals, including a donkey, chickens and rare-breed pigs. As a former teacher, Sarah also runs open days where people can spend time with the goats, as well as farm and forest school days, which give children the opportunity to experience farm life and enjoy outdoor activities.
Sarah and Ian have continued to seek the advice of their insurer, Cornish Mutual, to ensure they are covered for the diverse range of activities that Wookey Farm is now involved with. Sarah says: “Goats are easy to interact with and safe to be around, so it’s a great thing for children to be involved with. We want to start having even more visits to the farm, so we can share what we’ve got. Being accessible to the public and running open days means we need to have the right insurance in place. Cornish Mutual have been very good and really helpful as we’ve grown and diversified.”
Cornish Mutual local Insurance Advisor, Philip Wilson says: “At Cornish Mutual we deal with our Members face to face, taking the time to go out and meet them, which means we get to see their farms and businesses grow and diversify. We pride ourselves on being there to support them as they evolve and their needs change. Wookey Farm is a great example of this and it has been fantastic to see the business grow and develop in a relatively short space of time.”
While they have been expanding Wookey Farm, Sarah and Ian have also been growing their own family. At eight and six, their sons Alistair and Edward are increasingly able to help out with some of the day-to-day running of the farm.
Early spring is perhaps the busiest time of year for the family as the goats kid in February and March. With two of the nannies giving birth to quads this year, it has been an especially hectic season.
Sarah says: “We’re checking the goats all the time because we always like to be there for the births. Goats are generally good at just getting on with it, but there can be that one that needs a bit of help. Some have slightly bigger kids and, while most have twins, others have triplets, which can lead to complications. We like to be on hand to help and make sure they get a good start.
“I think the thing I love about goats is they’re so friendly - they’re the dogs of the livestock world. They react to you and want attention. You walk into a field and they all come towards you. They’re quite cheeky but in a charming way. They’ve got personalities and you can really get to know them.”
Wookey Farm is holding a baby goat open day on Sunday 14th April 2019 from 10am-3pm. This family-friendly day out promises food stalls from local producers and, of course, plenty of baby goats. Tickets are £1 (free to under 5s) including a voucher to spend at Wookey Farm’s stall.