In the Cowshed at Night

The first ever Farm event "proper" took place on Saturday evening here at the farm when around 50 people donned their wellies and went "In the Cowshed at Night!"

The aim was really just to start a conversation about the breakdown in communication between the farmer and the consumer and to put a few ideas in the pot about how direct communication whether by traditional methods or using new technology can bring about a positive change.

Many of the people live in the countryside, and wanted to find out whats really going on down on the farm. They toured the cowshed at night and got to see the two sets of twins that have been born this year. They asked lots of questions about all those sticky subjects that farmers often mutter about between themselves, organic versus conventional farming, TB, BSE. We had a mix of people as you will see from their comments - farmer - non farmer, vegetarian, non vegetarian, and also all age groups.

And a live calving? No but inbetween the guests leaving and Phil going to bed number 38 - a half charolais gave birth to a bull calf - and so that meant that there were 5 calves born in the 24hrs before the event and one born 10 minutes after......

There was also my talk, illustrated by Monty, where we had a chat in the sitting room about how the consumer and the farmer have grown apart and ways which we can start to change the situation, which was interesting.

"In the Cowshed at Night" at Lower Blakemere Farm was part of the LEAF's "Speak Out" campaign which seeks to encourage farmers to take opportunities to explain how quality British food is produced and discuss consumer concerns. You can find out more at

The food and drink was all from local produce:
Pickled Onions - Jackie Payne
Beef - Topside from Mr Lloyds at Craven Arms through James Heggie
Crisps - Tyrrells in Herefordshire
Fruit Cakes - Rosie, Rhian and Oakchurch Farm Shop
Bread - Credenhill Bakery
Fruit Juices (most popular of the evening was Prapple) Ragmans Lane Farm
Butty Bach Beer - Wye Valley Brewery
Cider - Paul Stephens Newton Farm
Flowers - Al and Anne

and was put together by Rhian, Rose and Noelle. Many thanks to them.

Of course we did a feedback form and asked people what they liked/didnt like and here are the responses:

What did you like? Seeing the calves and cows looking so happy and well cared for.
What didnt you like? Leaking wellies!
What did we miss out. Where to buy local beef
Comments Nice to hear other peoples opinions
What have you learnt: Lots and lots and I feel reassured about how the cattle are cared for.
K Summers

What did you like? The crisps. The very clean straw in the cowshed. The food and drink. Happy looking cows
What didnt you like? Driving home (!!)
What did we miss out. nothing
Comments I would not like to swop places with Phil when cows have problems calving
What have you learnt: Heather doesnt like Tescos. Lot of paperwork with cows.
The Fenns

What did you like? Seeing contented obviously well cared for animals
What didnt you like? Not sure if full lighting on all the time in the cowshed wouldnt stress? Could it not be dimmed a bit?!! (Dont laugh Farmer Phil)
What did we miss out. nothing
Comments Very informative.
P. Parry

What did you like? Everything
What didnt you like? Climbing on and off the manger
What did we miss out. What we dont know we cant miss
Comments Really enjoyed the evening. Good appreciation of how hard farmers work
What have you learnt: I must be vocal and demand.
The Collins

What did you like? Great evening out. Had a chat and a laugh, and saw how it should be done
What didnt you like? needed more notice
What did we miss out. Woolly hats and gloves
Comments Nice to hear other peoples thoughts
What have you learnt: Massive room for improvement on informing people on what they are eating and drinking. This is really important for the way forward in farming
P Stephens

What did you like? A great pleasure to be in your cowsheds
What didnt you like? I dont think generally peopl are willing to spend enough time money or attention on food. Perhaps it needs to be more expensive - or scarcer.
What did we miss out. nothing
Comments I do think you have been very generous with your open house and wellies.
I feel unhappy about pigs - I think they have a worse time that cattle and sheep
E Wilson

What did you like? The time of day the event was held and the variation.
What didnt you like? Not knowing who everyone one was and their background
What did we miss out.
Comments Whens the next one! We should all bring a guest that is not normally subjected to this type of thing! Well done!
R Puzey

What did you like? The whole evening was a brilliant idea
What didnt you like? n/a
What did we miss out. nothing
Comments Really interesting evening couldn't quite hear what Phil was saying but got the jist. Thank you
What have you learnt: Bulls are very big close up
Caroline and Mel

What did you like? Good idea: the debates: seeing the cattle
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out. Masses, but it was impossible to cover everything in one session
Comments Great to get people talking. Where do you go from here?
What have you learnt: How difficult it is to motivate people to change their patterns of behavior
Anne C

What did you like? The visit with the cows, the stimulus to think differently; the informality
What didnt you like? nothing
What did we miss out. Explanation of LEAF. Groups were a bit big to gear all the q and a's especially in the cowshed. Maybe we missed things there
Comments Really pleased that you did this. Let us know when you do it again
What have you learnt: About calf rearing. Thinking about not accepting what you get in restaurants and supermarkets, but asking about sources in a positive, non confrontational manner! You made us think!
Nancy and Derrick

What did you like? Very informative, relaxed atmosphere
What didnt you like? Phil could do with talking louder. Difficult to hear at the back
What did we miss out. It would have been interesting to know that value of the calf from birth to butchers shop.
Comments Very enjoyable evening - food for thought. May be useful for promoting local produce
What have you learnt: DEFRA - animal passports; tags; different way of farming beef to my parents
P Cianchi

What did you like? Presentation first class. Knowledgable
What didnt you like? cold in cowshed, were the cows cold?
What did we miss out.
Comments Very enjoyable evening, food and drink excellent.
What have you learnt: Farmer must get closer to the consumer. What a blog is.
Tony and Pauline

What did you like? Going around the cowshed was really good, especially seeing the calves - just a pity they'll all end up on someones plate!
What didnt you like? The fact that the calves will end up on someones plate - but thats life.
What did we miss out.
Comments Great idea - really agree that farming should be more transparent. I'm sure many people buy organic because they feel that this is some guarantee of good animal welfare.
What have you learnt: Very interesting to learn about the weaning of the calves/cows etc.
J and K Claridge

What did you like? Good to get local views and thoughts
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out.
Comments Difficult to see a workable solution
What have you learnt: More about the cuts available and where they come from

What did you like? Very thought provoking evening. Seeing the cattle
What didnt you like? The thought of the cattle being killed - but its reality!
What did we miss out. Maybe the drawing up of an action place. Was an influential forum - I'd like to be part of an action group.
Comments Fantastic, I'll help spread the word.
What have you learnt: Awareness on the welfare and future of farming. I didnt know the farmers are so dissatisfied with the impersonal methods. I now know they are.
S Hancox

What did you like? Hev's talk, beer and grub
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out. The mud - where was it?
Comments Good bash
What have you learnt: That folks are interested in farming afterall, or completely nosey

What did you like? The cowshed tour - this was excellent. Very interesting and great to be able to see the cows and calves so close. Also "Farmer Phil" was open to any questions
What didnt you like? Nothing really, thanks to Heather and Phil
What did we miss out. Perhaps something about people's attitude towards food i.e the reason why the supermarkets are able to dictate is because people are led and influenced by marketing which tells us what is "good" food. i.e focusing only on certain cuts of meat etc and convenience. It is their attitude towards food that needs to change before the consumer can assert influence over the market.
What have you learnt:Lots
Sarah F

What did you like? Stroking a day old calf ....ahhhh
What didnt you like? The cold
What did we miss out. A calf being born (Hev promised...)
Comments Overall very good evening. Glad I came. Ta
What have you learnt: What goes on in the clanky old shed
Jo from Wigglies

What did you like? Onions
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out. Nothing
Comments Very good
What have you learnt: The cuts on a cow

What did you like? The animals (bulls especially). The hospitality
What didnt you like?
What did we miss out.
Comments An excellent idea
What have you learnt:The single suckler works economically. Open up the channels of communication.
P Scott

What did you like? Liked all the information provided about food and farming. A magical experience.
What didnt you like? The cold, although was so enchanted by the evening soon stopped thinking about it.
Comments Great to have an insight into how "real farmers" produce and their thoughts.
What did we miss out.
What have you learnt: What a blog is and more about cattle and production
L Cochram

There we are..... your comments please.

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