Top of the flocks: teenage farmer’s business growth plan needs more land to succeed
Evidence that shoppers are keen to buy more locally produced food is music to the ears of one aspiring young Tenterden farmer who is looking to expand his successful free-range meat business – if he can find the right land.
Ambitious 15-year old Homewood School Young Farmer Reggie may still be at school but he has successfully reared several generations of animals since the age of 11. He now regularly provides top quality free-range beef, pork and lamb to a growing number of loyal customers amongst his extended family and friends, with plenty of positive reviews.
Like all budding entrepreneurs Reggie started small with just two heifers who he put into calf to provide his first meat products. He then took on two Saddleback pigs and most recently some stock lambs who he had to bottle feed four times a day when they first arrived. Reggie managed all of this while going to school, doing his homework and also swimming for Ashford Town Swimming Club.
Now Reggie wants to more than double his livestock with the acquisition of a flock of 5-20 sheep but he can only do this if he can find the right additional land in the Tenterden area, with trailer access, where he can graze them.
This is just the latest challenge that this dedicated first generation young farmer and entrepreneur has faced in the last four years – from handling a difficult calving to learning how to deal with movement orders and accounts. However, each new challenge has only strengthened his desire to become a full time farmer and to one day own his own livestock farm.
“It’s a constant learning curve for him,” says his mum Bex. Reggie’s parents John and Bex are extremely proud of their enterprising son and his mature attitude to both the business and the welfare of his animals. “Reggie was adamant that he would be the one to take his animals into the abattoir. He didn’t want them to be stressed at all. So each time they are ready, with the help of his Dad, he loads the animals himself and unloads them at the other end.”
His mum vividly remembers when his passion for farming began on a family holiday to North Wales: “We found a small petting farm called Foel Farm on the Isle of Anglesey and ended up renting a holiday cottage on their land. Reggie would just disappear and spend most of his time at the farm, helping out with the daily jobs which included mucking out and feeding.” His particular favourites were the Highland cattle and it is no surprise that Reggie eventually added one to his stock.
Back in Tenterden, friends agreed to let Reggie use some of their grazing land and, on Mothering Sunday 2017, Reggie welcomed his first two breeding Hereford-Dexter-cross heifers, chosen for their smaller size and the popularity of their meat.
Then Reggie joined Homewood which is one of the few secondary schools in the country with a working farm and offering both a Young Farmers club and animal care courses on the curriculum. Being part of the Young Farmers’ club meant Reggie was able to take part in the annual Kent Show which kick started an interest in showing his animals. Sadly his plan to show his Highland this year is on hold due to Covid. Meanwhile he is consolidating the additional skills he needs to grow his enterprise by choosing to study Construction and Business, alongside science and animal care. He is also aiming to get his tractor license when he turns 16 in January 2021.
The next step in Reggie’s journey to becoming a full time farmer is an apprenticeship with Egerton sheep farmer Ben Hope, following the completion of his exams next Summer. The apprenticeship came about after Reggie helped out with lambing during lockdown, in parallel to doing his school work at home. So impressed was Ben with Reggie’s attitude and work ethic that it was an easy decision to offer him an apprenticeship.
Reggie’s drive and dedication have taken him a long way in a short time but now he wants to take things to the next level and both his parents and the school are backing him all the way.
Homewood School Principal Jeremy Single said: “Reggie is a remarkable and inspirational young man who has shown enormous resilience and a determination to succeed. As a mixed ability school, Homewood is all about enabling every student to be the best they can be whatever pathway they take, whether academic or practical. I have no doubt that Reggie will achieve his farming dream.”
Reggie’s parents have created a Facebook page: ‘Reggie’s Free Range Pork, Beef & Lamb’, to showcase the business. Its slogan – ‘The Bear necessities: homegrown beef, pork & lamb’ – is a play on Reggie’s childhood nickname.
Says his mum: “Reggie has a lot of friends and family who have helped, supported and sponsored his venture, and it’s thanks to them that he’s been able to progress his dreams. We really hope that someone can now offer him the land he needs to make this next step a reality.”
Anyone with suitable grazing land to offer Reggie should get in contact via Facebook or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org