The dairy farmer
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.’