In addition to the campsite Cherry Orchard Farm is home to a working smallholding with a laying flock of hens for eggs, pigs during the summer, a herd of goats plus geese and turkeys that we rear and sell. Our motivation for starting a smallholding back in 2008 was that we wanted to be as self sufficient as possible for food and to have meat that we reared as naturally and ethically as possible. As that has developed we have also taken on rehomed and rescued animals so have plenty of permanent residents too.
Our oldest resident is Gertrude who is an Embden cross Toulouse goose. Gertrude was one of the very first animals to join us when we started smallholding in Sussex back in 2009. Gertrude still lays eggs during the summer and is now kept company by her daughter, Gertie, and their mate, Eric who is a pure Embden and who arrived in 2019. Their first goslings were hatched in spring 2020. During the winter months the geese can be very friendly, however in spring and summer Eric gets very protective of his ladies and their eggs and he likes to sneak up on us and grab our trouser legs if we are not careful!
Our goats are reared for breeding and for meat but like most farms there are a few favourites and pets in the herd. The goats are a mix of various breeds, predominantly Boers and Boers crossed with dairy goats. There are around 15 breeding girls plus two boys – Tyger, a pure bred Boer who is 3 years old, and Xsander, who joined us in autumn 2021.
Most of the goats born each year are either sold for breeding or pets or are reared on for meat for local food producers.
The oldest goat is Ollie, who is a Saanen. Ollie came to us at 7 days old in 2012 from the local dairy farm and was bottle fed, he loves cuddles and selfies and his sole job is to keep other goats company when they have to be on their own.
The other herd regulars are Lala and Po who are crossbred sisters, Tara and Claudia who are Boer goats and Annie who was born in 2018 and bottle fed when her mum rejected her. Annie has a black head and if any of the goats escape Annie is usually the ringleader.
Each year we have around 10-15 goats born on the holding. Our plan for 2021 is to introduce Goat Yoga and we are working with a local Yoga instructor to develop some regular sessions.
Our flock of hens provide us with eggs which we sell to locals and our camping customers. The majority of our girls are rescue hens from British Hen Welfare Trust – rehomed from large commercial egg units. These little brown hens are living out their retirement with us and whilst they no longer lay enough to be viable for big farms what they do lay for us is more than enough.
Together with the rescue hens there is a mix of different breeds including our white Ixworths, a rare breed of dual purpose chickens, and Cream Legbars that lay blue eggs. There are also a lot of home bred cross bred hens in the flock which provide us with eggs of various colours.
Each year we hatch around 30-40 chicks – the hens go into the laying flock and the boys provide us with meat for the year.
Rather uniquely we also have a breeding flock of turkeys – mostly Norfolk Blacks and Bronzes. We hatch as many eggs as we can each year and then sell on the young poults to other smallholders for pets, breeding or rearing on.
Turkeys are exceptionally curious and very talkative. The hens, who are smaller, have a range of noises and chatter most of the time, the stags will display their tail feathers and ‘gobble’ when they hear a strange sound. The long thing on their beak is their snood.
We buy in weaners each year from local breeders to supply us and family with meat for the year. The pigs usually arrive at the end of April and will stay with us throughout the summer until they are ready to go to the butcher.
Whilst they are with us the pigs live outside and have plenty of room to root around and wallow. Our ultimate aim is to have then roaming in part of the woods in summer as pigs make fantastic natural rotavators and can clear back brambles and undergrowth.