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Livestock farmer Sarah Mills on how a PCF grant has helped save business for future generations

PUBLISHED: 10:46 15 July 2014 | UPDATED: 10:46 15 July 2014

Sarah Mills

Sarah Mills

Archant

In advance of National Countryside Week, run by The Prince’s Countryside Fund, livestock farmer Sarah Mills tells Elizabeth Barnett how a grant from the farming charity has helped save her business for future generations

Parsonage Farm in the Bourne Valley is the story of how family farms have had to diversify to survive. Owned by the same family since the 1900s, its lush pastures were originally used to rear young calves for beef. But the farm’s current custodians, Sarah Mills and her husband John, oversee a much broader enterprise. The farm has developed and expanded as a venue for festivals, markets, barbecues and private celebrations such as weddings. They rear pigs as well as calves but the latest development, made possible through The Prince’s Countryside Fund (PCF), has seen John and Sarah specialising in Hampshire produced charcuterie.

John and Sarah are one of ten farm businesses that have spent two years learning how to make and package a wide range of charcuterie including chorizo and salami, thanks to a PCF grant to county food group, Hampshire Fare.

The project encourages farmers to diversify with the aim of developing and selling a new brand, and thereby ensuring a sustainable farming future.

John and Sarah have embraced the opportunity to turn around their businesses and have become ambassadors for the Hampshire Fare group. “Hampshire Fare securing the funding from PCF gave us the opportunity to learn charcuterie from Marc Frederic, an internationally-renowned charcuterie expert, and the confidence to diversify and keep our pigs,” says Sarah.

“Without this support we would have had to get rid of the pigs and consider selling the farm. The Fund has helped us acquire new skills and develop our family farm, running it as a viable and growing rural business. We now not only sell a range of charcuterie, but also offer butchery workshops, helping us to pass skills onto others.”

Sarah believes that the countryside is the lifeblood of Britain. “We are lucky to have such an amazingly diverse countryside - much of it managed superbly by farmers. It’s where many come to relax, have fun and learn from nature while others earn their income. “Living and working in the countryside is a privilege, despite the drawbacks of poor broadband and transport costs. “We try to work gently with the pattern and diversity of the environment. I love the fact that no two days are the same.

“We are just custodians of our patch of countryside for a short time and we must leave our mark gently. I feel we have a responsibility to educate and inform others, sharing our knowledge, so more can appreciate it.

National Countryside Week 14-20th July

www.parsonage-farm.co.uk

***

Where the Money Goes:

National Countryside Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of the countryside to the UK and recognise the people and organisations working tirelessly to maintain and promote rural Britain. The Prince’s Countryside Fund is addressing a number of issues affecting the countryside by giving grants to organisations and initiatives across the UK to help create and sustain a thriving rural community, from apprentice hill farmer schemes to supporting community shops, from encouraging pubs to be the hub of their communities to supporting school farms and helping women set up in business in rural areas. In just three and a half years the fund has given £3.8m to over ninety projects touching the lives of 64,000 people. To register your support for the campaign and make a suggested £3 donation please visit www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk

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