Steph and Andrew Nightingale bought what is now Hoddlesdon farm back in 2018. Although Andrews family background is one of dairy farming neither of them had any direct experience of farming. Steph’s career was in nursing originally then she moved onto her own occupational health practice which she still works 3 days a week and Andrew is an engineer by trade. Their love of the outdoors and good food led them to buying a small plot of land with six sheep and six pigs for their son Thomas as a hobby. From here Hoddlesdon small holding was born.
Steph explained “It started as just family and friends that would share the meat but as word got out people would knock on the door asking when the pigs would be ready.” At this point they realised this was more than a hobby and they registered with all the relevant bodies and became the farm. The vision however remained the same :Their produce will be slow grown, with high animal welfare standards and free range. Following organic processes with no artificial fertilizers and chemicals. They are however not certified organic and they don’t subscribe to any quality assurance scheme. Steph explained that for a small operation not only is it another time constraint to subscribe to a certification scheme but its also counter productive cost wise .
As well as both children being hands on with the animals, Steph regularly takes the animals into schools and has local schools coming to the farm under the farm to fork campaign. “Our children fully appreciate the circle of life and have full respect for the animal and where our food comes from. So much so that when they eat out as a family the children always ask where the food has come from- what shocks me still is that many cannot answer that question.” She hopes that being involved with the schools other children will also start to adopt the same outlook on the food that they eat.
Right now as I write this, Steph said it costs about £3 a kilo to produce pork, yet the supermarkets are selling it £ 2 a kilo. They cant compete with that and neither do they want to. They breed their own rare breed pigs and there are only 300 of them in the country.
Steph explained lots of egg producers are choosing not to re stock their barns any more due to rising costs including energy and chicken feed. Chicken feed went up literally overnight at the start of the Ukraine war by around 200% and yet the supermarkets refused to pay anymore per egg than they did over 2 years ago.
I don’t want this blog to sound negative and so I don’t want to dwell on the challenges which can come across as being negative. What I am going to do is come back to this another time, keeping in the spirit of this series of blogs which all about finding out more about where our food is from. Maybe with a whole story dedicated to what happens to an animal on a free range farm from its birth to dispatch.
They currently have submitted a planning permission application for another barn to house the chickens, which will increase capacity to another 10k eggs a week. She’s also looking to put her charcuterie skills to the test – so look out for new goodies on the menu! She would like to Increase the school and health and wellbeing work in the community- her passion for this shines through- her eyes lit up as she talked about this. In the mean time you might find her doing some goat yoga with her pet pygmy goats!
Pop up shop is the first Saturday of each month at 9am outside the farm on Roman road end. Here you will find sausages, bacon, eggs and other delicious offerings.
The best way to keep up to date with what’s happening at Hoddleston Farm is via Facebook.