We are the Bernardson Family, from North Staffordshire, and trying to leave convention behind to chase a dream of becoming first-generation farmers. Ma, Pa, Bernard, Barbara, Beryl, Bertie & Betsy. No one in our family is from a farming background, however, the stress and demands of raising a young family just became a whirlwind.
An almost robotic life of conveyor belt, military precision routines of school runs, work, swimming lessons, homework, housework leading to the need for fast meals, and life of juggling school events, stressful jobs and childcare. Ending only in a nervous breakdown. It had to stop.
Keep it simple
We knew life had got too complicated, and separate and wanted to share our work with our children. Ma was the first one out of the rat race, leaving behind a career in child protection, she contacted numerous dairy farmers for work experience, and started at the weekends, working a 6 day week before having the guts to throw a half-completed social work degree in the bin and spend her days in overalls and covered in cow muck. Working outside, with large animals and driving tractors is such an empowering experience and, from what started out as an experience only confirmed that a change for us all was coming.
We had to change. A holiday to Lancashire in October 2017 and spending the day on a dairy farm attraction had us all watching the cows at milking time to the end. The smell of the dairy, the noise of the cows, the hum of the routine, we were spellbound and triggered a childhood memory for Ma of being taken to Amerton Farm in Staffordshire by her Grandparents to watch the cows being milked on days out.
Making the change
In March 2019 we took the plunge and took on a residential tenancy on a farm in Cheshire, setting up Bernard’s Farm bit by bit. We started with re-homing 25 ex-battery hens and Ma brought home some of the dairy bull calves from work. Sheep next and then pigs in March 2020. We rented land 12 miles away as the farmhouse hadn’t any. It is no longer a job, it is a way of life, and we desperately wouldn’t go back. Every animal has a story on our farm and we care for them to the best of our ability. Buying our own land will be out of the question for us, and certainly not our own farm, and so our search to secure a farm business tenancy continues as this would bring our overheads down to a level where Pa could leave his job and farm full time with us. This search continues.
We have left behind a professional job, mortgaged property, pensions and stability in order to fulfil an ambition to produce our own food. We don’t want to just know where our food came from, we want to get our hands dirty doing it by caring for the soils, rearing animals to high welfare standards and to produce food that is free from pesticides, artificial fertilisers and chemicals. We want our animals to live full and meaningful lives, free from cages and intensive rearing methods, free from painful mutilations such as teeth and tail cutting, and to leave the land and the soils that form them in a better condition than when we found them.
Our dream is to show our own growing family, as well as serve our local community a more natural and sustainable way of life. We wish to provide a choice in what you eat. A choice to eat food that is slowly maturing, pasture-fed and challenges the norm on many intensive farms of today. Many of us make a choice to purchase free-range hens eggs over caged hens eggs. Eggs are now well labelled, we have a choice to support higher welfare farms. But more work is required.
We could choose to eat meat from animals that are kept to protect native bloodlines, for e.g. rare breed sheep, and meat from animals that have lived an outdoors, roaming life and not one kept inside in a metal cage, free from preventive antibiotics and mutilations.
Bernard’s farm aims to provide you with these choices, to live a healthy and natural life. We believe that slowing down, eating well and keeping it simple has been detrimental to securing our physical and mental health.
And we wish for you to share in the benefits of Bernard’s Farm, too.