Mad House Farm
Mad House Farm is the culmination of many years planning to farm and work with animals. In our corporate/building past, (Myself) James and my wife Tarin dreamed of living and working in the countryside with animals. When we started the farm in 2018 with a few free-range hens we had already been breeding Norwegian Forest cats for 2 years. We found that the way animals are generally treated for their meat and produce was just not acceptable to us. We agreed that we either needed to stop eating meat or set up a humane enterprise to supply free-range produce where the animals and birds had a happy carefree life. Then came the Broseley Wonderfully Wild Bronze Turkey idea.
The plan was simple. Raise turkeys for the Christmas market as free-range and as high welfare as possible. We started with a small flock to see how it went. It has since turned into an adventure that never seems to end.
Firstly, in went the order for 50 turkeys. We travelled to the three counties show ground to order them all excited and chipper, order placed here we go or so we thought...
NO. 2 days later order cancelled by the supplier, so we then found another 2 suppliers. We split our bets and 2 orders - 30 from one and 50 from another were placed. This time both suppliers held true to the order. In the meantime, we had acquired 3 acres of conservation land along with 10 acres of rough grazing. We needed to decide what to do to keep the land health as clearly 80 turkeys on 13 acres would do nothing to help the land.
Then along came the idea to have 4 alpacas as fox guards. So off I went on my travels...hitched up a borrowed trailer (never towed before) and travelled to the Peak District at 4 am to collect our first 4 girls, Cora a mid-brown girl, Enya a fawn girl, Eva a jet-black girl and Ellie a mid-brown with a white stripe across her head. Learning was quick fast and hard...
Now we have the start of our unique and exclusive farm. The girls settled well and in September we decided we wanted to expand the alpacas so purchased a few more and hired in a boy to cover our girls. All was not plain sailing and we had some extremely hard and trying times and experiences in those first few weeks and months. Then came the November rains and our dreams of having completely wild turkeys vanished. For their welfare, we had to take the flock up to the house and dry them in the barn whilst they still had access to an outside area and could easily be classed as free-range.
We were, to say the least, disappointed but did what we had to do for the animal's health. They seemed happy and cleared the grounds of stinging nettles.
Whilst all this was happening my idea to send the flock away to be processed came to an abrupt halt when I saw how the company were going to process our lovely birds. This re-affirmed why we were doing what we were doing. No animal or food products should be dealt with like that in our opinion. I came home and straight away was on the phone to the Animal and Plant Health Agency and Environmental Health and anyone I could beg steal or borrow help and wisdom from to set up our own high welfare processing area where the flock could be dealt with respect and dignity.
This was also clearly better for the consumer as the flock would not undergo the stress and trauma of being transported and dispatched in a commercial plant. The learning curve was immense, but by the beginning of December, we were officially signed off and had all licenses in place to now raise our amazing birds and sell directly to the consumer. When the first reviews for the turkeys came in on Christmas day it was an amazing feeling knowing that people had eaten an exceptional Christmas dinner whilst we had managed to raise and process the flock with what we believe could not be higher welfare standards. It was then we knew it was all worthwhile.
During this time in the back of our minds simmering away was the question, what do we do with the alpacas? We always wanted something intimate and exclusive to allow people to experience these amazing animals as naturally as possible.
We had spent a few lunchtimes sitting in the field in our trailer eating lunch watching and interacting with the girls. It was just a delightful experience, especially enjoyed by our young children.
Things have progressed quickly since then. When the Covid-19 pandemic stopped life as we know it, we had to adapt. Now we are offering local hen egg deliveries. As time has progressed this has mushroomed to the extent I found myself travelling around the country collecting rescue hens to provide eggs to local people who are shielding or in isolation.
Soon we were up to capacity and needing more hens, which we ordered, and the egg deliveries increased and carried on.
The idea that we had last year for an alpaca experience would be welcomed once lockdown had eased.
The ORIGINAL PACA PICNIC was born.
At the beginning of May when the Prime Minister said the words “outside” and “picnic” we went live with the idea. We contacted every available government body trading standards, environmental health, police and even the local MP along with our insurers to ensure we were following guidelines and as suspected we were good to go. A week later we posted our first advert on social media and bookings came through immediately.
We now find ourselves with great products. Broseley free-range bronze turkeys along with free-range eggs. We are proud to be able to help people experience some escapism in the close company of our alpacas whilst enjoying stunning views of the Shropshire countryside.
We look forward to the future and what it will bring as we continue to expand on the ideas we have to create birthday and picnic packages along with hopefully in the future some walks and trekking with the alpacas.