Surrey NFU's new Chair

Richard Keen_61035The new chairman of Surrey NFU is a mixed farmer from near Dorking who is looking forward to a relaxation in Covid regulations.

Richard Keen, of Etherley Farm, Leith Hall Lane, Ockley, near Dorking, farms livestock and high quality free range poultry. His family’s diverse enterprise includes a campsite and a produce shop and Richard farms with his wife Charlie, his daughter Amy, and his son-in-law Phil.

Mr Keen said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming greater numbers of customers through our shop and taking bookings for our campsite. We’re farming at time of enormous change, but we’re fortunate that our business is so diverse as this gives us many different income streams. During the pandemic, we have seen large numbers of local people coming to our shop and we hope to retain our new customers.”

The Keen family has been farming at Etherley Farm since the late 1950s. The farm produces high quality free-range poultry all year round. Lamb, hogget and mutton, from the family’s flock of cross-bred sheep, is sold seasonally, and beef is produced from pedigree Sussex cattle. Christmas poultry is a speciality of Etherley Farm, with turkey and goose marketed to Surrey residents for more than 30 years. A number of free range pigs are also reared to produce speciality pork and pigmeat products.

The family grows, processes and prepares all its produce on site, supplying nearby farm shops, markets, pubs and butchers. In recent years, all the farm’s produce has also been sold direct to consumers via the on-site shop which opened in 2017.

Mr Keen believes Etherley Farm is well placed to adapt to changes in farm support. “Future farm support will be geared to producing public goods. We believe that we not only produce a secure supply of high quality food, but we also care for the Surrey Hills. The network of footpaths on the farm is much valued by local people, along with greenspaces on neighbouring farms.”

Richard Keen also champions education about food and farming for the NFU, being a member of the NFU’s Speakers for Schools programme. He added: “It think it is so important that youngsters know where their food comes from and that teachers know where to find reputable online resources about farming and food, all of which are available at nfueducation.”

The farm has been in an environmental scheme to encourage wildlife, flora and fauna for the last 15 years. Hedges have been reinstated and restored, wildflower seed is sown and new trees have been planted. The farm’s orchard has been re-planted with local and traditional varieties of fruit trees. The orchard fruit is used by Debbie’s Homemade Preserves, maker of jams, chutneys and relishes that are sold in the farm’s shop. The orchard is home to the Keen family’s bees which produce the honey sold on site.

In 2016/17 the business made some much-needed improvements to its campsite facilities, converting a farm building into permanent toilets and showers. It also created the produce shop, receiving European funding from the Rural Surrey LEADER programme for all these enhancements. This same programme enabled the farm to begin expanding its orchard during 2019/2020 and to invest in new juicing and cider-making equipment, besides the planting of a further 54 fruit trees. New fruit juice and cider products are to be produced very soon.