Devon LivingIssue #02
We meet Jon Perkin, who tells us all about his family business running Dartington Dairy and Old Parsonage Farm on the historic Dartington Estate.
Having moved to Cumbria in the early 90s for ten years, before managing an organic estate in Wiltshire for a further five, when Dartington Estate began accepting applications for tenders on its core 500 acres of farmland, Jon Perkin, along with his wife Lynne, knew it was time to go back to his roots.
“A large part of our success is down to collaboration with other local enterprises, and we’re really keen to return that favour”
Lynne was born on a smallholding in Aldershot and grew up working on farms, where she learnt to break horses for livestock handling, and Jon has been farming for most of his working life. “I did move into other lines of work, but I always came back to farming.” Jon was born and raised on a dairy farm in West Devon, a farm that’s been in his family for more than 600 years.
Earlier in his career, Jon travelled and farmed in a number of different locations around the UK and Europe, including Greece, where he learned all about milking sheep and goats. Between them, this hardworking couple has firmly established not just one, but two lucrative businesses since taking over Old Parsonage Farm.
“Our core business is the farm and land, plus our livestock, all of which is managed to organic standards, but Dartington Dairy is the one that’s enabled us to take control of our own destiny,” Jon explains. Indeed, their ice cream, milk and Kefir (otherwise known as ‘the cultured milk drink’), as well as being available to visitors of the farm, can be found in more than 45 stockists around Devon.
So what lies at the core of this growing enterprise? Jon tells us: “It’s all about offering the public a positive, educational experience that teaches them about farming. We try and educate people of all ages and backgrounds so that they can make better-informed decisions about where their food comes from. We’re so disjointed from our food these days, so we want to help people reconnect with the benefits of fresh, locally grown produce over the cheaper alternatives that are available in the supermarkets.”
With this in mind, visitors can get hands on experience of milking the lovely but mischievous dairy goats at 4.30pm. You can also spend an exclusive day on the farm with Jon and Lynne, where you could find yourself doing any number of things, from helping move herds around the estate to aiding in the delivery of the farm’s newest arrivals – a magical experience if you’re lucky enough to time it right!
For a more relaxed experience, visitors can join instructor, Donna for some ‘Goat Yoga’. That’s right! This hilarious and therapeutic form of yoga is available for both family and adult classes, from April until October, and really is a workout for the mind, body and soul – especially those laughter muscles! It’s guaranteed to help you smile both inside and out; as the website says, who can resist settling into a downward facing dog with the cutest, upward-facing baby goat peeking up at you?
We ask Jon what it’s like to raise a family on the farm. “It’s really important to Lynne and I that our children have a wide outlook on life, culturally speaking, and with all of the cultural projects and initiatives going on across the estate, there’s so much there for them to take advantage of.”
He goes on: “Our boys are great around the farm, helping us out a lot and pulling their weight, even if it’s cooking dinner while we’re out working late! With so much going on all the time, they’re a huge help!”
Finally, we move onto the importance of local business and collaboration, and Jon explains that, for the Perkins family, it’s not just a one-way street. “If we, local businesses, can help one another, then I think it makes sense to do so. Dartington Dairy isn’t just for us; while it is our business, if we can help other businesses build an income by stocking their products, then that’s what we want to do. A large part of our success is down to collaboration with other local enterprises, and we’re really keen to return that favour.”
Old Parsonage Farm, Dartington,
Totnes TQ9 6EA
Dartington Hall Estate is a cultural mecca, being home to a whole community of people, from farmers to artists to business people, all influenced and inspired by the area’s unique beauty and spirit. Visitors can enjoy entertainment, shops, restaurants, even a hotel!
"A large part of our success is down to collaboration with other local enterprises, and we’re really keen to return that favour"