The James family have farmed at Treganhoe in the far west of Cornwall for four generations.
Ivor, Sue and their son Mark run the dairy farm as a partnership and have also recently diversified into camping as well, as part of the Feather Down community. Which is hardly surprising, as situated far out in West Penwith they are surrounded by the unique landscape and heritage of the peninsula moorland, as well as being within striking distance of some of Cornwall’s most stunning coastline and landmarks including St Michael’s Mount, Land’s End and the Minack Theatre.
However, one of the challenges to farming in this region is much closer to home. Drift Reservoir, unsurprisingly the most westerly water treatment works in mainland England, supplies water to the town of Penzance and surrounding rural communities, a total population of over 50,000 people. And the land at Treganhoe drains directly into it.
Jan Dinsdale, who works on the Upstream Thinking project in the Drift catchment, has worked with the James family for a number of years, and nominated them for the Cornwall Otter trophy. Common to many intensive dairy farms, the area of semi-natural habitat on the holding is limited, but the farming practices at Treganhoe are sensitive to the landscape but also to the precious nature of the drinking water resource on their doorstep.
Jan says, “They are constantly working on practice efficiencies, squeezing costs to keep afloat with the current milk price crisis but they continue, at the same time, to protect drinking water at their own expense. In my view keeping this farm in grass, with their sensitive approach to soil and nutrient management, is so much better than the business alternative of coming out of milk and planting bulbs and veg. They deserve recognition for this.”
Our judges visited the farm and came away impressed with the way the James’ understood the resource protection issues, and how they were taking measures to manage surface water and improve manure use efficiency. They are making plans for future improvements to infrastructure in order to constantly improve and secure sustainable milk production, and the cow hygiene and cubicle management also impressed the judges. The traditional Cornish Hedges around the farm are well maintained, providing a valuable wildlife habitat as well as maintaining the unique landscape, and rushy pastures are protected to benefit the bird life that flourishes at Drift. The James’ engage well with support and advice and are willing hosts for farm events, giving opportunities for other farmers to benefit from the support that is crucial for our dairy sector to survive and thrive in the future.
All in all, very worthy winners and a great example of Cornish family farming. Congratulations Ivor, Sue and Mark!