Everything Steve and Karen Reynolds have achieved on their farm near Staplehurst in Kent has been built on their own efforts. This has not only given the couple a sharp focus on their farm’s profitability but also ensured they don’t lose sight of attaining the lifestyle they set out to achieve. Their recent decision to bring some VikingRed bloodlines into their herd was made with an eye on both financial and lifestyle objectives. Now they say they will follow this through until the whole herd is fully VikingRed which they are confident will equip it to meet the opportunities and challenges ahead.
With two sons, Frank (23) and Archie (18), having recently joined the business, all family members are agreed on maintaining the farm at a manageable size. A 100-head milking herd and a thriving artisan cheese business is said to be more than enough to give them the lifestyle they desire and avoid the need to employ extra help.
But the route to this position was not in the normal convention for neither Steve nor Karen had the good fortune to inherit a farm.
However, Steve says: “There was only ever one thing I was going to do, having developed an interest when helping out on my uncle’s Somerset farm.
“So, when I left school, I had two options – either to go to agricultural college or get a job, so I could earn enough money to buy my own farm.”
He opted for the latter, starting as a tea boy on the London Stock Exchange in the late 1970s and working his way up to become a futures trader, which he continued for 13 years.
By 1990 he was ready to invest in a business and bought Iden Manor Farm, comprising 96 acres and a house. But the business got off to a faltering start with a spike in the cost of milk quota and interest rates rising to 15%.
“I worked for a further few years to help get the business established and – after a period with suckler cows – it wasn’t until 1995 that we eventually went milking,” he says.