A Day in the Life of a Deer Farmer
PUBLISHED: 00:16 31 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:13 20 February 2013
Continuing our series 'down on the farm,' we meet deer farmer Sebastian Petersen to hear all about his typical working day...
A Day in the Life of a Deer Farmer, Sebastian Petersen
Continuing our series down on the farm, we meet deer farmer Sebastian Petersen to hear all about his typical working day
What sort of farm is it?
It largely consists of a deer park. We also make hay and haylage, have a number of studios rented by a very diverse group of craftspeople and there is also a livery yard which is run by Udimore Livery.
What does keeping deer mean?
We have a deer park rather than a farm and by this I mean that the deer are kept totally naturally. We have two breeds, Fallow and Sika. The numbers vary according to the time of year, currently about 1,000 head but in the spring this will go up to about 1,400.
We dont intervene at all in the breeding and birthing processes and restrict supplementary feeding to the winter months and then only feed hay and haylage that has been produced from grass on the farm.
We are aided by the fact that the pasture contains a lot of clover which helps to set nitrogen, and we use as few artificial fertilisers as possible. In effect, the deer are wild and we cannot get within a 150 yards of them! This way we give the deer the best possible and most natural life.
Venison is a very healthy meat low in fat and cholesterol. We leave the skins on when we hang the deer because this retains the moisture in the meat. We do the butchering ourselves and we sell haunches on or off the bone, loin fillets, steaks, shoulder, minced and diced meat and various other cuts.
We also make our own venison sausages and burgers and our venison pies are made locally. At Christmas we shall be selling locally sourced turkeys
Sika and Fallow venison have different flavours and customer loyalty is divided. People unused to eating venison sometimes assume that the flavour is very strong, but much depends on the cooking method used.
At what age did you start?
My father was a very successful fishmonger in Billingsgate and he bought the farm. Initially we grew arable crops. I loved the life that is what inspired me. How long have you farmed? I was quite young when my father bought the farm and so, in that sense, it has always been part of my life. When I left school I went to work in the city in investment banking but I quite quickly realised it wasnt for me I was yearning for the country life and I came back. I have been managing the farm for 14 years.
I havent had any formal training. Because I have always been involved, Ive learnt on the job. On the office side, the business and finance course I completed has proved useful. Describe your working day I expect everyone says this, but every day really is different. At this time of year, my day usually starts at about 6am. I select the deer for culling, which we carry out in a humane, totally stress-free way very much part of the Chart Farm ethos. The rest of my day variously involves deliveries, dealing with enquiries, building new contacts, checking the shop. It is very busy!
How do you market the venison?
We supply several well-known chefs and our customer database includes leading restaurants and pubs in Kent and London. We are members of Produced in Kent, an organisation owned jointly by Hadlow College and KCC, which does a very good job promoting Kent food, drink and crafts.
We opened a farm shop in summer 2009 which is generating new business and customers who had never previously tried venison are now regulars. As well as venison and venison products, we sell beef, lamb, pork, and other locally produced meats and foodstuffs.
Do you have children following in your footsteps?
I have a five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. It is an idyllic life and I would like to think they will follow in my footsteps.
Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?
A little less bureaucracy would be good but its still 10!