Day in the life of a Kentish livestock farmer
PUBLISHED: 13:05 30 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:05 30 April 2018
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Chris Bishop on following his dream after retiring from the very different world of accountancy
Name: Christopher David Bishop
Job title: Livestock farmer
Tell us about you
I run our business, C.D. and J Bishop, with my wife Judy. It is a livestock farm and we breed sheep and cattle.
I came into farming late – it is a second career and something about which I am passionate. I originally trained as a chartered accountant with a firm in London and, after qualifying, joined my father’s practice in Hastings where I worked for about six years before returning to London.
Throughout this period both Judy and I loved the countryside and I was involved in various country pursuits. When I retired from Ernst and Young as a Partner we were able to fulfil a long-held ambition and dream and buy a farm. That was in 1995.
I didn’t have any formal training as such, but we had so many friends in the farming industry that I was never short of mentors. We had socialised with them a great deal over the years and the conversation invariably centred on farming; consequently we had the opportunity to learn a surprising amount. When we got the farm our farming friends were always on hand and willing to give advice and help. This was an enormous benefit.
Tell us about the farm
We farm 230 acres on the High Weald at Cranbrook in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s stunning. The soil is mostly Wealden clay, which inevitably has some draining problems, although we are aided by the fact that our land is all on a hill. I might add that the views are utterly superb!
We have 320 ewes, mostly Suffolk x Mules, but we also have a small number of Herdwicks. In addition to the sheep we have a herd of pedigree Sussex cattle. The stock lives indoors in the winter and we also lamb under cover.
All our livestock is farm-assured under the Red Tractor scheme and the cattle are registered in a High Health scheme. We take environmental responsibilities very seriously and, although we are not officially designated organic by the Soil Association, we are the very next best thing. We use very little fertiliser but the nature of the soil demands we use some; we haven’t sprayed for more than three years.
A typical working day?
I am always about by 7.30am. About two years ago I had a serious illness, since when I have handed over some of the day-to-day routine to staff. Emily Salter and Colin Shand are both from highly respected farming backgrounds and share most of the work between them, which operates very well. Husbandry standards are very important to all of us and I inspect the stock every day, a task I really enjoy.
How do you market?
We are incredibly fortunate to sell all our lamb and beef to E.C. Wilkes and Sons, based in Cranbrook. They are among the very best butchers in Kent and it is very important to us that we are able to sell all our stock locally.
Any famous clients?
Because we don’t actually market direct to consumers, I don’t really know. The quality of the meat encourages customers from a wide geographic area – I am sure this includes some famous names!
Any children following in your footsteps?
We have four children but only one, Simon, is so far interested in farming. He combines a full-time job with running his own small farm at Heathfield.
Marks out of 10?
I love every single moment, as does Judy. We count ourselves very, very fortunate to be in the farming industry in the beautiful county of Kent. I have no hesitation in awarding a 10!
Get in touch
C.D and J Bishop, Spratsbourne Farmhouse, Goudhurst Road, Cranbrook TN17 2PY
01580 713854 or 07860 568815 (visits strictly by appointment only)