Diversification has always been an important aspect of business for Hertfordshire farming family PE Mead and Sons.
From the 900-acre mixed farm at Wilstone in the Chiltern Hills, sixth generation farmers and cousins Chris and Simon Mead, operate an extensive farm shop and farmhouse kitchen that is filled with locally sourced produce.
The farm also prides itself on producing a wide variety of its own products, including its award-winning own-brand Chiltern cold-pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil, plus Aberdeen Angus cattle and north Country ewes for an extensive range of beef and lamb products.
In addition, it supplies the shop with apple and pear juices from its own orchards, it processes 1,000 tonnes of timber each year for firewood and also provides bagged hay and straw for the local pet market.
“Our fathers started the farm shop in 1968,” explains Chris Mead. “Back then, it was just a stall at the side of the road, to sell our produce to passing customers. When Simon and I took over the running of the farm in the 1990’s, there was opportunity to grow the shop.”
“As a family-run business, we’ve always had a good mixture of enterprises, to provide balance for our sustainable farming practices,” he says. “How we farm and what we produce is both beneficial to us and the surrounding environment.”
The Mead family continues to balance a tradition of quality and customer care alongside efficiency. It is a philosophy that extends to cropping and equipment choices, with local dealer George Browns supplying the majority of the machinery needs for the business.
“We’ve got a great relationship with Browns, which is why we now have three Kubota M7 tractors on the farm,” says Chris. “We like to be treated the same way our customers do – it’s a high standard, but we believe customer service and care is essential.”
Chris says the farm bought its first Kubota, an M7-131, four years ago under the security of a five-year, 3,000-hour warranty.
“Now with 3,000 hours on the clock, it’s proved totally reliable,” he says. “And on the back of its performance, we’ve since added an M7-172 KVT and more recently, an M7-153 with a loader and front linkage.”
“While we do have two telehandlers, it’s also handy to have a loader on a tractor,” says Chris. “With so much activity in the farmyard, it increases operational flexibility.”
Growing winter wheat, spring barley, oilseed rape, peas, beans and grass – the latter for grazing and baled silage to support 200-head of beef and 100 ewes and lambs – the farm has recently adopted min-till practices for crop production, as it seeks to improve organic matter and bio-diversity.
“Moving to rotational ploughing has also eased the workload, and also reduced our reliance on a high-horsepower tractor,” he says. “The toughest work is with a Simba DTX deep leg cultivator, which the M7-172 pulls really well on most of our ground. On the really heavy land, we could do with a bit more muscle, which is where our more powerful 235hp tractor comes in handy.”
“While we don’t really need 235hp, we do have this occasional requirement for a bit more than 175hp,” he says. “And I would definitely have an all-Kubota fleet if there was a 200-210hp tractor in the range.”
He says the simplicity and efficiency of the M7 range makes it a fuss-free choice.
“These tractors do pretty much everything we ask of them,” he says. “It’s easy to cab-hop, and the four-cylinder engine does perform really well. And little things like the economy pto helps to get more fuel efficiency on those jobs like raking and tedding, when you don’t need maximum power.”