AF Changemaker: mixing it up makes sense

My name is Bruce Paterson from Worstead Farms based on Worstead Estate East Norfolk.


Worstead Farms started in 1952 with various subsidiaries but it’s all been consolidated over the years. My grandfather had a lot of dairy cows and that was the main part of the business that carried on through into my father’s career.

We’re 2,000 acres in total. That includes all of our arable pasture woodland, etc. And we try and maximise each aspect of that, whether that be arable, or the pasture and we have got some third party businesses on the farm: two equestrian businesses, a brewery, deer stalking, poultry and a distribution hub that works with us to deliver our beef and beer from the brewery.

The farm side is a mixture of arable and livestock. We have numerous diversifications on- and off-farm and we are seeking to progress things in every way, really – livestock, arable, diversifications of various kinds. And we started in earnest I guess about five years ago.


What changes have you made?

We started moving into more of a mixture with arable, beef and we’ve diversified the grazing side into horses as well. We’ve built a solar park up near the North Walsham power station end of the farm.

We grow a lot of irrigated crops like carrots, potatoes and salads as well as a lot of AD maize and rye for a local AD plant.

We’ve got an RSPCA assured suckler Wagyu herd, which is not that commonplace in the beef industry. We feel that is a bit more recognisable to our customers, the general public, than Red Tractor. And it’s important to us to recognise the animal welfare aspect of how we operate as well.

We’ve been crossing Wagyu with Angus for a local market and we’re looking to establish more of a full blood market. We’d like to start by growing that market here at home in Norfolk and ultimately it may lead to customers in London or further afield.

We have now built a brewery on site so we work with them growing them the barley and then we use the brewer’s grains to feed the Wagyu cattle.

In the past I sourced wheat bran from the mill, a flour mill as well as apple pomace from Cider Press. But COVID unfortunately put an end to those kind of scenarios. We’ve challenged our feed mills to supply us with feed as local as possible, but certainly UK based.

So, we’re not just getting in on what is the staple side of things, we’re conscious of how soya is produced beyond our borders. And we like the idea of using what is grown in the UK to produce our beef.

We provide local butchers with our beef that goes into local restaurants as well as direct to the consumer. We have had a bit of a challenge because we’ve only been actually finishing animals since the start of the pandemic. It’s been a learning curve for us.

It takes two and half to three years to finish an animal. By the time you’ve got all the way through there, you need to tweak things again at the start and there is that lag. But we are finding that it’s getting better and better as we go through it. Also, we kind of hedge that slightly as well, so we also sell some of our F1’s on a contract basis, into other homes that are beyond Norfolk.

But the idea is eventually that once people are learning on the F1 side, the crosses, we can then develop that into our full bloods going forward.

Seven or eight years ago now, we got planning permission for a solar development. We sold the project and we take a rent for the solar farm. We then used that to invest into a 50% shareholding in a wind turbine.


What are the results of the changes that you’re making?

We finished building a wedding venue just over a year ago. We’ve had a very busy season and are looking at double the amount during 2023. On the operational side, there’s been a few teething issues with the new build, the buildings, and seeing how it’s operating, but that’s to be expected.

Going beyond that, we’ve got another application in at the moment. The idea is that we’re looking to get more people on site to basically showcase the food that’s produced on the farm, whether that be beef, eggs and beyond.


How does AF help?

We’re looking at doing some tree planting, expanding our rotation and some infrastructure type projects as well to allow us to expand on the cattle grazing side. We’ve been doing a lot of work in the last two or three years, mob grazing, which AF has helped us source a lot for, and we’re looking to grow that over the next 12 months and the environmental stewardship side of things as well. AF have helped us sourcing seed for that.


What’s next?

We are creating a mosaic of infrastructure in places where there’s less productive land. Woodland planting is connecting habitats and also some permissive footpath connecting the various hamlets of our parish, to the centre of the village and the public transport links.

We’re kind of attacking a lot of things and a lot of angles at the moment and it seems like there’s not really a light at the end of the tunnel, it just keeps on going and improving and improving everything for the next generation.

The changes we are making give the whole business a lot more resilience against a drop in market, whether it be leisure, hospitality, livestock, arable, whatever. If one drops the aim is that the rest should be able to hold it up.

We also want to create potential for the next generation to be able to take on an aspect of the estate in their own right. It allows them to get involved, if they want to. If they don’t, if they’d rather do something else, then there’s plenty of people out there that would be able to take it on. So that’s the reason why we’re doing it. It’s not just short-term resilience. It’s looking 20, 30 years down the line as well.