Sharing the dream
Sue Kemp talks to Debbie Kingsley about how she and her family combine work, education and smallholding at their holiday cottage complex in Devon
Sue Kemp, her daughter Anna and partner Andy have more energy than most. Ideas for their lovely holiday complex and wedding venue Country Ways are never in short supply, and the way they have combined their love of smallholding and their business is inspirational. “We’ve always fancied ‘the good life’ – even when living in Southampton we were always growing things, enjoyed the outdoor life and eating fresh local produce, and we had ponies, poultry and animals around us. Moving to Devon clinched it; we could expand what we were trying to do and, being in Devon, you are openly encouraged to enjoy everything there is about country life. It seemed only right to go on a smallholding course to find out more about expanding the smallholding side of the business we were buying, a self catering cottage complex with a small farm.”
The family moved to Country Ways, High Bickington, in April 2012, having spent a year in a rented farm while property hunting. “This gave us the hunger to develop the farm. We set about re-fencing four suitable sized paddocks for small numbers of animals. The only animals we have for the freezer are our Berkshire pigs and we try not to name them or pet them as often as the other animals, trying to maintain a distance to avoid becoming too attached. In the early days we had them all year round but now prefer to keep them when they can enjoy the summer weather. We recently gave up keeping sheep; we had four Devon and Cornwall Longwool ewes and a ram but found the care very demanding, especially having chosen such a large breed, difficult for my daughter Anna and me to handle. We now have pygmy goats, miniature Shetland ponies, miniature donkeys, alpacas, ferrets, rabbits and reindeer and will be shortly venturing into wallabies as a friendly and easily manageable alternative to sheep as grass grazers.
“Anna and I run the farm side of the business, buying in the feed, choosing and buying stock, deciding what to keep, breed or sell and the general welfare of the animals, including when to call the vet. Andy has taken on the responsibility