Jenny & Lenny Bowes of Ghyll Bank in Raisbeck near Penrith
Everything about Jenny and Lenny Bowes feels new.
In only their fourth year of farming they are considered new entrants, they’ve taken on the tenancy of a new farm, in a new county and are adopting new ways of working. And all of this with three kids under the age of seven during national lockdown conditions and lambing time.
Originally from Wensleydale, Jenny used to be a northern area manager for an agricultural chemical company and Lenny was a dairy engineer.
The couple took over the tenancy at Ghyll Bank in Raisbeck in June 2020 and despite the many challenges of making the move during the pandemic, consider themselves extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to farm in their own right.
Ghyll Bank is 580 acres of grassland. Jenny and Lenny are running a flock of 1,000 sheep mainly made up of Texel and Suffolk cross Mules. They intend to breed their own replacements.
Jenny said: “Due to the current uncertainty surrounding the sheep markets we have also diversified into cattle to spread our risk. We’ve Belted Galloways, Stabilisers, and a handful of Longhorns.”
Lenny added: Our system will be based around grassland management and soil health. We want to work with stock that does well on grass because we need to make a profit on every single acre of land we have.”
Changing trading conditions post Brexit loom large over Ghyll Bank with the couple admitting uncertainty in the sheep market is a cause for great concern.
“Almost all of the land on this farm is only suitable for grazing sheep and regardless of what happens in the market we still have rent to pay,” explained Jenny.
“It angers me that we are concentrating on reducing our carbon footprint at a time when lamb is being shipped around the world. We do worry about the prospect of cheap imported food.
“If we continually get undercut post Brexit then there won’t be any family run farms left and no opportunities for our children to enter the industry.”
Jenny and Lenny have three kids – Alice who is six, five-year-old James and Peter who is two. Enthusiasm for the challenge appears to extinguish any of the negatives which threaten to get in their way.
Lenny said: “We are farming around a nature reserve and have plans to restore three wildflower meadows on the farm. We’ve a lot of work planned for 2021 including renovating the farmyard.
“We’ll also be working with the Lune Rivers Trust on flood defences. This will involve leaky dams which means dropping branches across streams.”
The couple also have plans to rewild part of the farm and replenish some woods.
Keen to integrate into the local community, they’ve already joined The Westmorland Dales Farmer Cluster Group which is farmer led and looks into ways the businesses within the group can farm more sustainably. The NFU is also pleased that Jenny and Lenny have decided to join the NFU North West Farming Ambassador scheme.