Finding ways to make a small farm work has opened Rowan Simms’ eyes to what is possible on the 20 acres she farms with husband, Tom.
Rowan started her heritage, native breed pigs in 2017 at Waterfall Farm in the village of Ellingstring between Masham and Leyburn.
Three years on it is the pigs that still take centre stage with Large Blacks and Saddlebacks, but they have been joined by Wensleydale sheep alongside a more commercial-minded Texel flock and eight goats.
It’s an ever-changing livestock picture as Rowan continues to explore what will work best in the coming years, while maintaining her first love and commitment to rare, heritage breeds.
“There’s a great interest and it’s something that larger scale farmers might not be interested in doing because of what they have on already, but for me it works.
“There has been a huge rise in the number of people looking to grow their own food and wanting to try raising their own pigs and we have been selling weaners from our growing sow herd that was already supplying pigs to the restaurant and butchery markets.
“The interest has grown even more in the past three months since lockdown judging by the number of visitors to our website and social media pages. There is now a very real appreciation of sustainability and self-sufficiency.”
Rare breeds and training are just two of what Rowan sees as four planks that will hopefully see the farm thrive in future. The other two being education and butchery. They are all now under the banner of Maythorn Fayre.
“Since joining the Ladies in Pigs (LIPS) organisation I have learned so much more about the pig industry, rather than just having knowledge of my own niche market pigs. This has really helped me.
“I have been fascinated to learn about the much larger scale commercial pig herds with big sow units and fattening pig farms with thousands on site. And it is great that I am now able to not just be a part of the LIPS operation but also contribute too. I’ve dressed up as a pig mascot, seen the team in action in the Food Hall at the Great Yorkshire Show, which gave me an appreciation of the work these ladies do, and I’ve recently been invited to become part of the education team.
“Engaging with the public about pigs, the pig industry and how to cook pork and all other pig produce is very important and also quite fulfilling. I also now conduct educational workshops at such as Springtime Live, at last year’s event where I took some of the animals with me.