Meet the farmers
East: Peter Barfoot
I was born in 1950 between the strawberry villages of Hedge End and Botley. I’m the son of a strawberry grower and my mother’s family grew strawberries in a region known as the Hampshire Basin. With the Isle of Wight to the South, and the Hampshire Downs to the North, the area enjoyed a microclimate that was perfect for the little red berries.
I’d definitely say that I’m always on the lookout for a crop to grow that’s a bit different from the normPeter Barfoot
After a very undistinguished education I studied for a year at the Hampshire College of Agriculture. Soon afterwards I headed to Australia on a ticket that cost just £10 and spent four years working on cattle farms before returning to England. Finding myself unemployed (or unemployable!) I rented a council small holding in Hampshire and embarked on growing vegetables that were a little different from the norm but suited the region's high light levels and mild maritime climate.
Since then the business has grown dramatically. Today I grow a range of semi-exotic vegetables from chillies to sweetcorn, in geographical locations as diverse as Spain, Senegal and Peru, but of course I still farm in Hampshire! I’d definitely say that I’m always on the lookout for a crop to grow that’s a bit different from the norm.
I am fortunate to have two of my six children working with me in this amazing fast moving industry. Today's disasters are soon forgotten by tomorrow's successes, or perhaps bigger disasters. Our success has been down to a team of people who work with drive and entrepreneurial spirit, respecting each other, our environment and wider community.
North: David Hay
I am the third generation of my family to farm at Easter Rhynd in the beautiful county of Perthshire. I feel very lucky to be doing a job I love every day. Don't get me wrong, it is not without its challenges, especially the wonderful Scottish weather which makes sowing and harvest especially interesting!
Nothing gives me more pleasure than looking across the patchwork quilt of land and knowing I had a hand in shaping that landscapeDavid Hay
I really believe that farmers are the custodians of the countryside and nothing gives me more pleasure than looking across the patchwork quilt of land and knowing I had a hand in shaping that landscape.
Last year we made the difficult decision to give up growing potatoes on the farm. So now we grow wheat, oats, barley and oilseed rape with some ground rented out for peas and vegetables.
Apart from farming I have a passion for all types of sport and have represented Scotland and Great Britain in curling. The highlight of my sporting career was being crowned the world champion in 1991. In recent times I have turned to coaching and was delighted when my team, skippered by Eve Muirhead, won the bronze medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.
Nearly all my leisure time is taken up with sport, either taking part, coaching or watching and (although it can be hard sometimes) I particularly enjoy playing golf as well as supporting the Scottish rugby team and the British and Irish Lions.
North: Finlay Hay
I had an idyllic childhood on the farm and from a very young age I helped out in the school holidays, even if it was just handing dad tools when he was working on something. I think I have always known that I would be a farmer.
I think I have always known that I would be a farmerFinlay Hay
I sat my tractor test as soon as I turned 16 and from then on was a bit more useful! I studied Agriculture and Business at Aberdeen University and then went travelling. I had a great time seeing the world and worked for three months in Western Australia driving a grape harvester to supplement my funds. However, the plan was always to come home and get stuck into the family business. My dad gave me strict instructions to return by September 1st 2013 for harvest!
My other great love, apart from farming, is rugby; I played for the first XV at Dollar Academy with the highlight being scoring a try in the schools cup final at Murrayfield. I also captained Aberdeen University 1st XV and played for Scottish Universities. Today I am the Club Captain of Perthshire Rugby Club.
Over time I am starting to take on more responsibility for parts of the farming enterprise. Hopefully this will relieve my dad of some of the pressure! My plans for the future include getting my BASIS agronomy qualifications and bringing new ideas into the business to keep it moving forward. I believe a family business gives you the ambition and desire to continue and better what your fore fathers have done.
West: John Thatcher
People often ask me how we moved from being farmers to cidermakers. Well, really we haven’t. Growing apples is a crop just like any other – it’s just that the end product as far as we’re concerned is cider.
We need to share ideas, take risks and not do things just because that’s how it’s always been doneJohn Thatcher
It was my grandfather who first started pressing apples at Myrtle Farm, it wasn’t unusual at that time for farm workers to be part-paid in cider. He ran a mixed farm here, which my father carried on, but cidermaking was always part of daily life. Our two sons Martin and Robert grew up with farming – Martin is now the cidermaker, and Robert runs his own farm too.
When we planted our orchards at Shiplate we found out that the Romans had a vineyard on those very slopes – so I thought I’d give that a go too. We’ve been harvesting our grapes for the last few years now and make a pretty decent white wine – personal consumption only!
I’m passionate about making sure that as an industry we move forward. We need to share ideas, take risks and not do things just because that’s how it’s always been done. Not everything works first time – but unless you give it a go, you’ll never progress. I’m really proud of the fact that we continue to research – whether we’re aiming for disease free fruit, regular croppers, or pressability of the apples. There’s a lot of potential in the older varieties of fruit, especially when combined with new technology – this is something that really interests me.
Family is hugely important. My wife and children, and now four grandchildren. The grandchildren constantly keep me amused and active – they soak up information like a sponge and in Eleanor and Peter we definitely have the next generation of cidermakers.
We have been lucky enough to travel around the world – not just for pleasure, but visiting cidermakers and apple growers. It’s been a real experience to meet so many interesting people and I’ve made a lot of friends doing it. Cidermaking has to be one of the nicest industries to have worked in.
West: Martin Thatcher
I grew up here on Myrtle Farm, as did my dad, and his dad before him. It’s no surprise therefore that my own children Eleanor and Peter have their home at Myrtle Farm too.
I’m passionate about family, heritage and doing things absolutely rightMartin Thatcher
As a family we’ve been farming here since 1904, cidermaking has always been in our blood, but it’s only in the last 15 years that apples have been the only crop produced here on the farm. Cider has become our core business, excuse the pun.
As a farmer’s son, I was always helping out around the farm from when I could first walk probably, planting trees, packing up lettuces when my Dad operated a fruit and veg business here, helping with deliveries. I was lucky that my Mum’s parents also ran a farm, so I would help out there too. Joining the family business was the natural thing to do – as was undertaking a Nuffield Farming Scholarship. I was lucky enough to travel the world researching fruit juice production. It’s an experience that has stood me in great stead throughout my career, and has steered me in many of the decisions we take here at Thatchers.
I’m passionate about family, heritage and doing things absolutely right. That includes looking after the environment and running our business here in Somerset sustainably. What spare time I get usually gets dedicated to sport – watching rugby in particular.