By FFCC Devon Committee and University of Exeter
Pipers Farm, Devon
Pipers Farm produces high-quality, pasture-fed meat across a network of 26 smaller-scale family farms in Devon and Cornwall: providing a route to market for these farming businesses and delivering online retail nationwide.
The framework of the organisation is tailored to respond to the physical, environmental and human resources specific to each of those individual businesses. However, working as a group creates economies of scale and provides each business with digitised access to the market. Aggregating the resources of these smaller scale businesses has the additional benefit of harnessing traditional knowledge of landscape, native breeds, and farming practices which have often been passed down through several generations, and which focus on environmentally sustainable outcomes.
The organisation seeks to produce meat that is value for money in terms of nutrition, taste and convenience, and believes that enterprises producing food must be built on a fundamental objective to deliver a financially sustainable margin for the farming business and provide ecological and public goods through their work. Pipers Farm undertakes a range of activities to achieve their objective. For example, the partner farming businesses are encouraged to be multienterprise and draw on the wisdom of traditional mixed rotational systems, in order to diversify income streams and provide a more resilient business. Pipers Farm offers the opportunity for each individual farmer to optimise sustainable management of the landscape and natural assets, delivering both public goods and also high-quality food to meet growing market demand.
Examples of different farm enterprises within the Pipers Farm family are:
A partnership farm within the National Trust estate, Trevigue rears a herd of pasture fed Red Ruby cattle, which are outdoors year-round. This beef is sold through Pipers Farm delivering a sustainable enterprise margin, ensuring the profitability of the farm. This model safeguards and enables the promotion of biodiversity on the land. As well as the intrinsic benefits of this, it provides additional value in experience and education for the public who access the farm, including potential relationships with local health centres through social prescribing.
Farming for over a hundred years, this farm has focussed on Red Ruby cattle (dual purpose milk and beef), and subsequently commercial Holstein cattle. The farm used to produce increasingly high volumes of commodity milk, until it was driven out of production in 2015 by the downward pressure on margins, and an outbreak of bovine TB. During this time both young sons left the farm to work elsewhere. The farm is now part of the Pipers Farm model, rearing 700 pigs, 750 turkeys and 250 lambs for sale direct through the Pipers Farm online shop. These viable livestock enterprises are helping to re-establish a multi-enterprise family farm and demonstrate the traditional benefits that livestock can bring to arable rotations, for example; reduced use of inorganic nitrogen fertiliser; reduced use of carbon fuels through mechanical cultivations; and improvements to soil structure, biota and fertility.
The Home Farm is increasingly becoming a hub for interaction with consumers interested in provenance, animal welfare, nutrition, human health, cooking, and children’s education. Farm visits are complemented and enhanced by sharing knowledge digitally through the Pipers Farm website about the positive impacts their food and lifestyle choices have on the health, biodiversity and the sustainability of landscapes and rural communities.