Ruth Simpson was born into a farming family and chose to do a degree in microbiology and biology on leaving school, After several years working as an account end she married her husband Paul and went to live on his families 197 acre dairy farm ‘West Arrathorne’ in Bedale, North Yorks. The farm at this time used conventional agricultural practices and the main function was to supply milk to a large dairy company
In 2009 Ruth and Paul watched Rebecca Hoskins A Farm for the future and from that moment the couple knew the way they were farming had to change. Almost immediately Ruth arranged for the renowned Permaculture Designer Patrick Whitefield (who sadly died earlier this year) to undertake a site visit to advise them on permaculture design at farm scale. Ruth then went on to do several of the first RegenAG courses held in the UK. In addition she also undertook a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in Leeds, the Permaculture Training of Teachers Course (that year at The Inkpot, Lincs), and is currently an apprentice on the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design.
Ruth, Paul and their 2 teenage children very much use RegenAG tools at the core of the permaculture work they now do at West Arrathorne. Paul initially gained a great deal of knowledge from the resources provided by the RegenAG courses Ruth attended and also from Neil Dennis who helped the family to transfer knowledge about Mob Grazing beef cows to their dairy farming
The various elements that have gradually been added to the farm design and now contribute towards a much more resilient land include:
* Planting 3,500 trees as windbreaks.
* Keeping hardy native breeds of beef cows and sheep.
* 2 flocks of chickens, one for meat production (using a system similar to that devised by Joel Salatin) and one for eggs
* The introduction of more diversity of breeds of cows in the dairy herd, giving an increased financial value to the milk and improving the wellbeing of the herd
* Developing Mob Grazing system with all the above animals Ruth and Paul have also formed the Holistic Management goals for the and are tweaking them as they move forwards
* Selling meat and eggs produced on the farm to the local community
* Planting broad scale orchard (agroforestry in rows which can either be grazed or used for growing further edible plants in between the trees) and polytunnel areas
* Converting an arable field into herbal lay, adding in clover and chicory to other pasture, improving both soil and animal health.
* Undertaking soil chromatography in each field with the aim of providing evidence of soil health, as the regeneration of the farm progresses
* The use of homeopathic remedies to treat any animal health problems
The changes made at West Arrathorne over the past 6 years, have had some really positive effects on both the land and Ruth and her family -
* The family is all observing huge improvements in the biodiversity of both fauna and flora on the farm. They have also seen a big difference in animal health and contentment with their new systems and elements.
* Ruth and rest of the family have also noticed an increased satisfaction in the farming work they are doing. Networking with others doing similar types of farming and the enjoyment of the regular observations needed with seeing how the farm has flourished are both key aspects. Both the children in the family have taken a keen interest in various elements of the farm design too. A couple of the local (very conventional) farmers are also tentatively starting to want to know more.
* The volume of work involved in the Farm design at they have at the moment however is physically and emotionally exhausting though, and Ruth is very aware of the fact that the health and well being of the family is an important element to nurture, in order for the farm to thrive.
Ruth has a massive list of future plans for West Arrathorne, many of which are already projects underway:
* Setting up a Community Supported Agriculture Scheme (to be run by an additional person).
* Having a timetable of community ‘events’ to connect with various celebrations in the farming year, (harvest etc.)
* Cheese/Ice-cream/raw milk production for local sales
* Producing and using biofertilisers
* Planting further herbage to edge animal paths on the land, to allow self medication by the animals farmed at West Arrathorne
* Keyline ploughing
* Further integration of the Mob Grazing systems
* Finding ways to market and sell produce more effectively:
* The creation of a website and related social media
* Having stalls at local food festivals etc.
All photos by West Arrathorne Farm
Further information and social media contacts