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Law Farming covers 1,600 Ha. on the Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex borders over three main farms; Thrift Farm, Rectory Farm and Chrishall Grange. We also contract and share farm for others.

Arable crops cover 1,200 Ha. They comprise cereals, sugar beet, forage rape, mustard for seed and stubble turnips as a catch crop on which to graze sheep. As the farming area has expanded, the policy has been to move to block cropping in order to simplify storage and field operations. Land is either farmed on a simple two year wheat/break rotation or three year wheat/barley/break rotation.

To promote soil fertility we grow a wide rotation of crops and carry a flock of 2000 sheep. Many of our crops are grown for seed or are processed or milled locally.

All of our farms are predominantly chalky in soil type with some outlaying clay knolls and areas of sand running through the lower lying land. The land is free draining.

Crops are predominantly grown to supply local markets. Milling rye and oats are produced for Jordans Ryvita. Some soft milling wheat and most of the barley is also sold to Jordans Ryvita. All of which are grown under Conservation Grade protocols. The Conservation Grade standards require that we set aside a minimum of 10% of productive land to various habitats for mammals, invertebrates and insects.

We grow four varieties of brassicas for seed, i.e. Hobson forage rape and Interval forage rape; both used in the salad trade. Essex Broad leaf rape and stubble turnips are used as Winter fodder. An area of Spring barley and Winter wheat is also grown for seed. Sugar beet is grown very successfully across all the farms and is delivered to Bury St Edmunds British Sugar factory.

We have adopted precision farming techniques including GPS automatic steering systems
and variable rate application of nutrients including P & K.

The farm supports 2,100 ewes lambing in two groups. 1,000 Dorset x Mules lamb in early January. Their cycles are synchronised with sponges and the ewes are injected with PMSG to lamb in a three week window. The ewes and lambs are turned out to stubble turnips at four weeks old. The lambs are creep fed until they reach the desired weight and grade.

From late May to November when the ewes are dry, they graze the adjoining Therfield Heath which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Other times of the year they graze permanent grass around the farms.

1,100 mules lamb mid February to mid March. These sheep are turned out after lambing onto grass and lambs are creep fed until finished. The aim is to finish 90% by the end of July. Suffolk rams are used to produce a mixed balance of finished lamb carcases.

Flock health
Since annual rainfall is only 600 mm average per annum, there are minimal foot health problems. Lambs need to be finished quickly in the Summer before pasture dries out and drought sets in. Routine worming has been replaced by dung sampling in an effort to reduce the risk of resistance to the active ingredients in the products used.

Store lamb production
Each Autumn, depending on the availability of feed and number of our own lambs remaining on the farm, up to 3,000 store lambs are brought onto the farm and finished on catch crops of stubble turnips sown after Winter cereals and before Spring barley and sugar beet. The majority of lambs are sold between February and April. The remaining lambs are fed concentrates ad lib.

Marketing
A local butcher’s shop is supplied with lamb throughout the year. The remainder of the lambs produced go to abattoirs in East Anglia and the South West.

For the past 25 years, conservation and habitat creation have been at the forefront of our farming policies. Since 1997, the farmed land has been included in government schemes administered by Natural England.

We have planted over 30 km hedges, allocated areas for wild bird food, created wild flower and grass margins, ponds, beetle banks, left fields fallow, undersown Spring cereals and stubbles overwinterd for ground nesting birds. Parkland, hedges, ditches are maintained and archaeological features fenced off.

Through this emphasis on farming with regard to wildlife habitat enhancement and preservation, recent RSPB surveys have uncovered marked improvement in the number of bird species seen around the farms. Owl boxes are checked annually, usually housing growing families of Barn Owls. There is an increase in numbers of Red Kite, Buzzard, Skylark, Lapwing, Grey Partridge, Finch, Owl and others.

Shoots are run on the farms helping to find the balance between countryside management and wildlife protection.

Therfield Heath (SSSI) is a fine example of undisturbed chalk grassland in East Anglia which supports rare grasses and flowers, butterflies and insects. It adjoins Thrift Farm and the farm benefits from grazing rights (stints) on the Heath.

Natural England part funded the costs of suitable sheep, equipment and day to day shepherding. Grazing continues throughout the part of the year the sheep do not have lambs at foot.

The rare plants and insects are dependent on short grass produced by regular sheep and rabbit grazing. They would disappear if management by sheep were discontinued and more undesirable species would take over.

Since 2002 we have carried out extensive work to restore existing woodlands. Entering the English Woodland Grant Scheme has enabled essential management to be carried out, namely thinning, coppicing and replanting.

In addition, we have planted some 26 ha of new woodland under the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme. Blocks of new woodland are sited adjacent to existing woodlands on marginal areas and in field corners.

In Autumn 2013, we purchased 12 ha of mature woodland adjoining Thrift Farm and Therfield Heath (SSSI). Work began early 2015 to restore Fordham’s Wood and Jublilee Wood. This started with the creation of permissive public access paths and the installation of interpretation boards.

Farm visits
Throughout the year the farm hosts visits from a variety of groups including schools, farming, groups from the home and abroad, environmental clubs and groups. Visits use the Black Barn for introductory talks and refreshments. Therfield Heath, the Thrift woodlands and other habitats are all within walking distance.

School visits
It is important to give children an insight into how and where their food is grown, the life cycles and seasons that determine production and to demonstrate the value of farming in the maintenance of the landscape.

We are a certified CEVAS (Countryside Education Visits Accreditation Scheme) farm and receive year-round visits from many local schools from Reception and years KS1 and KS2.

If you are a teacher and would like to find out more about school farm visits, please go to Farming & Countryside Education (FACE).

For further information or to arrange a visit, please email frances@lawfarming.com, or call us on 07976 390 706 or 07977 474 124.

The Black Barn, which was formerly a cart shed, was converted in 2009 into a meeting and conference room as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. The venue has its own kitchen, washing facilities, Wi-Fi and projection facilities and is available to rent, seating up to 45 people in comfort.

For further information on Black Barn or to arrange a visit, please email frances@lawfarming.com, or call us on 07976 390 706 or 07977 474 124.

The Camp is a secluded parkland area available as a wedding or party venue within two miles of Duxford airfield.

During World War 2 The Camp was established to allow RAF personnel to live off the airfield. Various structures such as air raid shelters and living quarters are still in situ.

Water and electricity is available at the site.

For further information on The Camp or to arrange a visit, please email frances@lawfarming.com, or call us on 07976 390 706 or 07977 474 124.