background and history.
It’s not every farm shop that can count Prime Ministers as regular customers but Buckmoorend Farm is part of the Chequers estate and the PM’s country residence is visible from the top of the hill. Farmer Daniel Hare is philosophical about his famous clientele: ‘You have to put your political beliefs to one side when they come in - after all, everyone is entitled to a weekend off and a sausage roll!’. Prime Ministers come and go but the Hare family has been farming in this beautiful part of the Chiltern Hills since the 1970’s when Daniel’s grandfather took over the tenancy. Daniel himself didn’t go straight into the family business but was drawn back in his late 20’s after studying agriculture at college: ‘The heart wants what the heart wants’. After a 3 year handover process, Daniel has now taken over the running of the farm from his father and lives on site with his wife Steph, who manages and runs the farm shop, and his two young children.
Buckmoorend is a 600 acre farm with two thirds given over to arable crops and the remaining 200 acres as grass for livestock. Mixed farming like this is not usual practice these days due to the high costs and complexities of working with two different farming methods. In Daniel’s eyes however, this way of farming means his eggs aren’t all in one basket and it enables him to manage the land in a more environmentally conscious way: ‘when you’re harvesting, you’re just taking away from the soil. With a mixed farming system you can put back in with the manure from the animals as a natural fertiliser’. He also minimises waste by feeding any excess wheat and barley he’s harvested to the animals, who then produce manure to spread on the fields - and so the cycle continues! Increasing biodiversity is also a priority at Buckmoorend and Daniel has set aside four hectares of land as an uncultivated, untouched natural habitat to attract birds, pollinators and wildflowers. The location of the farm in the stunning Chiltern Hills brings with it further responsibilities since 9 hectares is designated a ‘Site of Special Scientific interest’ which means Daniel has to sensitively manage the land and graze very carefully in the right way at the right time.
The animals at Buckmoorend are all completely free range and predominantly grass fed. The geography of the Chiltern Hills with it’s woodland and hedgerows mean the fields at the farm are small in size so Daniel moves the animals to fresh pasture on a regular basis, rotating between the cows and sheep: ‘We put the cows in first as they enjoy the long grass and bring the sheep in afterwards because they like nibbling’. Whilst the landscape necessitates this regular movement, Daniel finds it also benefits the health and wellbeing of the animal and the land itself which is given chance to regenerate. The small herds at Buckmoorend also mean Daniel can check up on the animals every day, sometimes several times a day and the animal’s welfare can be kept a top priority. Rearing free range animals out in the field in this way means they may take a little longer to reach their required size but the quality of their lives and ultimately the taste of the meat is very much worth the wait.
The pigs on Buckmoorend Farm are properly free range. And by that we mean outside, all the time, for their whole lives. You don’t get many ‘real free-range’ pigs these days as it takes longer for them to reach their required weight but Daniel’s are kept outside (with shelter available) and are always free to roam and snuffle in their large enclosure. Pigs are a relatively recent addition to Buckmoorend Farm and they current have four sows (two Saddlebacks and two Large Whites) and one Large White boar. The piglets are born and live their whole lives on the farm and are kept with their mother until they are weaned at 8-10 weeks which is much longer than your average supermarket pork. Rearing pigs in this completely free range way is definitely harder work but it keeps their lives as natural as possible and the taste of the pork is just so much better.
Daniel has 40 beef cattle on the farm. He cross breeds Hereford cows which are good, attentive mothers with a Simmental bull to create a well rounded beef. The cows rear their own calves until they are 9 months old which brings huge health and welfare benefits for the cattle and is a far more natural way of farming animals. The herds are outside in the field as much as the weather and grass will allow and the cows will stay on the farm until they are 24 months old, resulting in a delicious beef.
The ewes at Buckmoorend are a mix of highland North Country and Cheviot Mules which make excellent mothers and the ram is a French Charollais. Daniel believes crossing this continental breed with a native ewe gives a nice lean meat and a particularly nice legs of lamb! The flock currently stands at 170 ewes and 3 rams, all reared outside with grazing on the beautiful Chiltern Hills.
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