From Corporate Life to Country Life

Ian Jones, Hill House Farm

Ian Jones, Hill House Farm

Sunday was a big day in the Jones family, not only because for the first time ever we opened our farm to the general public as part of LEAF’s (Linking Environment and Farming) Open Farm Sunday campaign, but also because it marks three months on since I quit my full-time, salaried job, and became a farmer! 

Organising an event is always a challenge, but when you’re putting your new workplace on show it’s a nerve-racking experience. As a family-run business, backed by three generations of Jones’s we’re all used to mucking in and helping out and there was no shortage of volunteers this time. 

Ably assisted by family, as well as Tim from the Food Float and the rest of the Hill House farm team, who are all local to the area, we set about prepping the farm, cleaning, tidying and clearing … although with a drove of pigs to run around after, sometimes it can look like you haven’t even started. Sheep were shorn, yards cleared and cakes baked, all ready for the big day.

So why would we chose to go through all this hassle just to open our doors to the public? At Hill House Farm we are really passionate about what we do and love talking about it, which is why we wanted to take part in LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday event. We are dedicated about connecting people to the countryside, whether that be through great food or outstanding rural experiences and felt that by opening our doors we’d be able to show people what we do and why we care so much about it.

We also wanted to opportunity to show our ‘farm to fork’ rare breed pork and lamb, which is hand reared on our farm, as we pride ourselves on creating high-quality products, with great provenance and low food miles.  We believe it’s really important to know where you food comes from and what’s gone into creating it, particularly for children, so what better way to impart that knowledge than with a giant show and tell.

So as well as showcasing Hill House Farm we also wanted to use the day to promote other local businesses and were really pleased to team up with Handpicked for Dorking.  They work with lots of local arts and craft companies and provided a variety of artisan stalls, from printed bags to natural beauty products and jewellery, also selling their wares were Dapper and Suave, Illustrations & Prints and some refreshments provided by Dorking Friends of Cancer Research UK, who raised over £500.

So with all the bunting up, the signs erected and sun shining, we opened up our barn doors on Sunday morning, with no real insight into exactly how many people would be interesting in visiting our working farm.

It’s fairly fair to say we shouldn’t have been worried about it being a damp squib, as we welcomed over 750 people of all ages through our the gates.  Some visitors were local, others had travelled from London and other parts of Surrey and Sussex, just because they were keen to visit a working farm and peruse the crafts. 

It was wonderful to see the farm buzzing with visitors, queues at stalls, children petting piglets or on the hunt to see the sheep or just enjoying the sunshine and a sausage roll on the grass surrounded by the farm machinery. 

So as we waved goodbye to our last visitors and shut our farm doors for another year, I was afforded a moment to reflect on not just on today’s event, but also the last three months.  It’s fair to say I’ve learnt a lot but also loved every minute of it, well …. almost every minute of it!  I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, all those working on the farm, Handpicked for Dorking, Dapper and Suave, Illustrations & Prints, Cancer Research Dorking and LEAF, so big thank you to them all.  I am also very happy to say we hope to be back next year with a bigger and better event and I definitely won’t be swapping my farm overalls for my suit any time soon!