AHEAD OF THE HERD

An un­usual four-legged leav­ing present in­spired the start of a new busi­ness for Tereza Fair­bairn

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - words by anna jury pho­to­graphs by alun callender

G" I make use of ev­ery­thing so I can rein­vest the prof­its into car­ing for the an­i­mals

oats smile – not many peo­ple re­alise this, but it’s true. For proof you need only visit Fuli­broch Dairy, run by Tereza Fair­bairn on her small­hold­ing, which sits on one side of the ver­dant Stour Val­ley in Suf­folk. Take the short walk from her 15th-cen­tury farm­worker’s cot­tage to the goat sheds and you’ll be greeted by at least one cheer­ful face peer­ing over a sta­ble door, ears cocked back, bright eyes alert and what is un­mis­tak­ably a jaunty grin very much in ev­i­dence. Ven­ture closer and a soft, furry nose the colour of weak tea will be pushed into your hand in search of head strokes, which will turn the goat’s eyes from alert to bliss­fully half closed.

It’s no sur­prise re­ally that Tereza’s goats smile. Each one is metic­u­lously cared for from the mo­ment it’s born on site (with her help when nec­es­sary). They’re all fed high-qual­ity meadow hay and dairy nuts (plus good­ies from the veg­etable patch), are kept in deep, straw-lined sta­bles in cold or wet weather, al­lowed to roam her two-and-a-half-acre plot when it’s fair and are hand-milked by Tereza or her part­ner, Tim, twice a day.

With this in mind, it’s sur­pris­ing to learn that the ar­chi­tect be­hind such de­voted care wasn’t al­ways a goat fan. “When I found out my col­leagues were plan­ning to get me one as a leav­ing present, I nearly asked if I could have a pair of wellies in­stead,” Tereza says over tea in her farm­house-style kitchen. “I’ve al­ways loved dab­bling in the good life – when we lived in Witham, Es­sex, I had a veg­etable patch and kept a few ex-bat­tery hens – but I was shocked at the idea of hav­ing a goat. I didn’t know the first thing about car­ing for one.” Liesel, as the goat was named, was brought home to the Suf­folk vil­lage of Bures St Mary, where Tereza and Tim had bought a cot­tage and sprawl­ing plot shortly be­fore she left her job to look af­ter their son Matthew, now ten, full time.

De­spite Tereza’s ini­tial nerves, it wasn’t long be­fore the whole fam­ily started to warm to the idea of goat-keep­ing and, when a lo­cal breeder asked if she would like two more Bri­tish Toggen­burgs, she couldn’t re­sist. How­ever, the new­com­ers came with a prob­lem. “Sud­denly, we had 70 litres of milk a week on our hands. It was too much for us to drink between us. I couldn’t pour it down the drain be­cause it would cause a block­age and it was il­le­gal for me to put it on the com­post heap or sell it, so what else could I do but open a dairy?” she says, laugh­ing.

In early 2013, Tereza and Tim en­listed the help of lo­cal builders to con­struct a sim­ple two-room dairy – one room for milk­ing and an­other for bot­tling. Hav­ing de­vel­oped a metic­u­lous eye for de­tail in her pre­vi­ous job, Tereza rel­ished the strin­gent hy­giene reg­u­la­tions in­volved in food pro­duc­tion and care­fully fur­nished the space, sourc­ing most of her equip­ment sec­ond­hand. For the dairy (and her of­fi­cial herd pre-fix), she chose the name Fuli­broch in ref­er­ence to Fule­broc, an an­cient ham­let her home would once have sat within, named af­ter the ‘full’ or ‘foul’ brook that still runs into the River Stour to this day.

Avoid­ing waste has al­ways been in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to Tereza and, hav­ing been the cat­a­lyst for the launch of the dairy, it now sits very much at the heart of the busi­ness. As a re­sult, in ad­di­tion to the goats’ creamy raw milk, cus­tomers can now buy hand­crafted goats’ milk soap in­fused with herbs and flow­ers, lean goats’ meat and beau­ti­fully soft goats’ hides. “It’s very

im­por­tant to me to make use of ev­ery part of the process, so I can rein­vest the prof­its into car­ing for the an­i­mals,” she ex­plains. Climb the hill be­hind Tim and Tereza’s cot­tage and you will see the lat­est in­ge­nious scheme to make use of an­other abun­dant by-prod­uct of an­i­mal rear­ing: ma­nure.

De­spite the ram­bunc­tious, free-rang­ing goats – Tereza’s herd has now grown to two dozen – the meadow above her house feels like a sanc­tu­ary. Home to three 300-year-old oaks, it has views across to the Es­sex side of the Stour Val­ley, known lo­cally as ‘Lit­tle Switzer­land’. “We get barn owls nest­ing up here and of­ten see spar­rowhawks, hares and fal­low deer,” Tereza says. “We’ve even glimpsed pole­cats and muntjac deer in the past. It feels a long way from the trad­ing floor, where I of­ten wasn’t even near a win­dow.”

In ad­di­tion to lo­cal wildlife, one cor­ner of the field is also home to the Fuli­broch veg­etable patch, ir­ri­gated, like the rest of the plot, with the wa­ter from an an­cient well at the front of the house, which is pumped us­ing so­lar power. Here, in ad­di­tion to straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries, beet­roots and apri­cot, plum and black bul­lace trees, there are sev­eral rows of leafy rhubarb thrust­ing up from a gen­er­ous layer of goat ma­nure. “Rhubarb thrives in it,” Tereza says. “This is Tim’s project re­ally. We pull it from now un­til Au­gust and sell it lo­cally.” The goats are also ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the veg­etable patch. “They love cour­gettes – when they grow into mar­rows, they all go mad for them. We also give them ap­ples from our trees. It’s lovely in au­tumn be­cause we get calls from all over the vil­lage with peo­ple say­ing, ‘We’ve got some wind­falls – would the goats like them?’ We re­cy­cle all the Christ­mas trees round here, too. Peo­ple drop them off and the goats have a lovely time munch­ing away.”

Tereza also uses her knowl­edge of plants and herbs to sup­ple­ment the goats’ diet with medic­i­nal va­ri­eties when nec­es­sary. “Com­frey is great if they’re lame or have mus­cu­lar in­juries, for ex­am­ple,” she ex­plains, “while net­tles or bronze fen­nel stim­u­late milk pro­duc­tion. I’ll al­ways try us­ing plants be­fore re­sort­ing to med­i­ca­tion.”

Since it launched, Fuli­broch Dairy has be­come a true fam­ily af­fair. Three years ago, Tim, also an in­vest­ment banker, left his job to help out with the goats. This gave Tereza more time to spread the word about her low-waste, ‘closed loop’ ap­proach to an­i­mal rear­ing by giv­ing talks to lo­cal groups and schools. She was also able to spend more time work­ing on the dairy’s mar­ket­ing, even writ­ing to Coun­try Liv­ing’s edi­tor Susy Smith, ask­ing (suc­cess­fully) if it could ap­pear in the magazine. Mean­while, her son Matthew has be­come some­thing of a star on the agri­cul­tural show cir­cuit. At­tend­ing in a pris­tine white coat, flat cap, shirt and tie, he and his own Bri­tish Alpine goat called Rosemary (who he af­fec­tion­ately calls Rozza) have won a string of rosettes and are slowly be­com­ing the faces of Fuli­broch on so­cial me­dia.

This might all seem a long way from Tereza’s pre­vi­ous job in the Square Mile, but when it comes to the un­ex­pected way her life has un­folded, she’s philo­soph­i­cal: “Some­times, when op­por­tu­ni­ties just land in your lap, you have be re­cep­tive to them. I re­mem­ber Tim say­ing, when he found out what my leav­ing present was go­ing to be, ‘You don’t have to do it. I can go back and tell them to get you some­thing else’. At that point I had no idea that the gift was go­ing to turn into a dairy in my gar­den, but it just goes to show that if you’re open to what life throws at you, you never know where it might lead.”

"Sun­ndenly, we had 70 lit­ters of milk a week, which was too much for us to drink

Fuli­broch Dairy’s creamy raw milk comes from hand-reared goats that are free to roam; Tim’s big project is now the rhubarb (be­low right), which grows well with goat ma­nure

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