The dairy farmer

Country Life Every Week - - Out & About: Chelsea Flower Show 2018 -

For­mer county coun­cil­lor Allen Cot­ton’s fam­ily has been farm­ing within sight of Glas­ton­bury Tor for more than 200 years. ‘We now farm nearly 600 acres of dairy coun­try with a milk­ing herd of 240 cows and more than 300 head of young stock and beef cat­tle, plus 50 acres of ce­re­als. As I hand over to my son, I’ve taken on 72 acres of dessert ap­ples and cider fruit.

‘Bridge Farm has been in the fam­ily since it was first bought in 1805, and is now the home of our son, David, his wife, Lene, and their two daugh­ters. The fact that the farm has been in the same fam­ily own­er­ship for such a long pe­riod is very re­as­sur­ing as, over that time, they must all have seen good times and bad and yet man­aged not only to sur­vive, but also thrive, as well as hold­ing their place in the lo­cal com­mu­nity. ‘The biggest change in my life­time has been mech­a­ni­sa­tion, from horse and cart to self-steer trac­tors and from cows be­ing hand-milked to ro­bots. I used to milk a max­i­mum of seven when we were hand­milk­ing, right up to 1953. Now, one man milks 240 on his own, and that’s with­out be­ing fully ro­botic. To be a good dairy farmer, you need at­ten­tion to de­tail, dis­ease con­trol, good pas­ture man­age­ment and the will­ing­ness to be on duty 24 hours a day with lit­tle re­mu­ner­a­tion.

‘There’s some­thing about our county, with all its di­ver­sity. As a young man, on my re­turn from spend­ing a year abroad on a farm­ing schol­ar­ship, I thought “Yes, this is as good a place as any I have seen on all my trav­els”, and was very happy to stay. Mary and I have been mar­ried for more than 58 years, and I'm proud of the depth of our fam­ily roots here. It’s great that our el­dest grand-daugh­ter has ev­ery in­ten­tion of tak­ing over the farm in due course.

‘Af­ter home and farm, my favourite places are up high with views of the Tor and the City of Wells. To keep Som­er­set spe­cial, fu­ture gen­er­a­tions should main­tain the vil­lage com­mu­ni­ties and pre­vent too much ur­ban sprawl.’

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