Church Farm is based in the small village of Sunningwell, Oxfordshire, and is run by husband and wife team - Tom and Chloe. The farm produces high quality venison, which they deliver door-to-door across the country.
It began operations in 2017, and it's had animals on the property for the past five years. The farm has now grown to support 160 breeding hinds - divided into three herds, eight breeding stags, with up to 130 new calves born each year. These are in addition to the previous year's calves, which are known as yearlings (one year olds), so it’s hugely important that rotational grazing is managed
The learning curve for Tom, who has an extensive military background and a background in personal training, has been “straight up!”
As a result of the weather they encountered in 2019 and 2020, that learning curve was amplified. The weather was harsh, the springs were dry and the summers were hot. Tom says: “I was pulling whatever remaining hair I had out thinking ‘what do we do here? When's the rain coming? Somebody turn the taps on!’”
"I think you had to learn the nitty-gritty of being a farmer much more quickly as a result of that. As well as understanding animals quickly, as you want the best for them. In order to achieve the best results for your product, we have to provide the highest-quality rearing and upbringing possible." It was - and continues to be - a steep learning curve.
"I find it to be extremely enjoyable, and it is incredibly rewarding. It would be a very difficult job without those two components. There's no getting away from not grafting. So if you're a grafter then generally you can, you can tolerate it!"