BUSINESS: A blossoming family concern
PUBLISHED: 12:36 19 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:36 19 August 2014
Life can be challenging for today's farming families. They must be prepared to diversify in imaginative, innovative ways and make use of every asset they possess. Jane Crowe visited Whites Farm near Bures where they're doing just that. Pictures by Clare Dawson
The Scobie family, who live near Bures on the Essex Suffolk border, are prime examples of entrepreneurial spirit.
The third generation to live at Whites Farm, they run the family business from a modest acreage of rolling orchards, a charming farm house and a medley of venerable outbuildings. An idyllic situation perhaps, but there was insufﬁcient income from traditional farming methods to support their growing family.
Necessity being the mother of invention, they began to diversify. Over time the old barns were restored, or rebuilt. In 1992 Sally trained as a Montessori teacher and started a nursery school, which has has now been extended to care for babies. As well as providing specialised education and childcare in idyllic rural surroundings, Pippins employs 20 staff and is an invaluable asset to the local community. Whites Farm Baby Barn, a state of the art shop selling baby equipment is based next door. Orginally established by Angus and Sally this whole facility is now owned and run independently.
In another outbuilding the Scobies have installed a swimming pool for exclusive private hire, which is proving extremely popular with families who appreciate the privacy of swimming together in their own allotted time. Back out on the farm, the orchards themselves are highly productive, providing apples and pears for their own Whites Farm Pressed Fruit Juices as well as the Coppella factory at nearby Stoke by Nayland.
However, peonies are surely the most exotic products of this lovely farm. Grown in open ﬁelds they are cared for meticulously as each stem is disbudded to produce one perfect ﬂower. They are inspected twice daily and harvested at the small ﬁrm ‘golf ball’ stage, conditioned and cold stored until dispatched. Normally available throughout the month of June, these top quality blooms are sold to wholesale and independent ﬂorists, but can also be bought privately, at exactly the stage of openness required, perfect for a wedding or a very special gift.
The development of woven willow fencing is the latest of Angus Scobie’s enterprises, a re-introduction of an ancient rural craft that is a far cry from the manufactured panels sold in DIY stores. Bespoke, woven on site and made to measure, they are a true piece of craftsmanship for which demand is growing. Architects and garden designers are increasingly aware of the versatility of a product that is natural, harmonious and blends easily into its surroundings.
From a modest job to screen an unsightly oil tank or extend the height of a cottage garden wall, right through to large surrounds for swimming pools and high proﬁle projects for London architects, Angus and his team of four can build exactly the structure that is required.
Fences no longer have to be straight and of a uniform height. They can follow the contours of the land, ﬂuctuate in height and include curves and corners, alcoves and doorways. They can be big, tough and sturdy or more delicate and unobtrusive, the beauty is in the detail of construction. The fence may be based on brick, wood, concrete, or the uprights driven straight into the ground. Steel rods and canes are used for the skeleton of the fence and willow withies (long sticks) from the Somerset Levels are woven between them.
The willow is graded and, if necessary, soaked before use. The actual weaving process is simple. The withies are woven in bundles between the uprights and the extremities ﬁnished off neatly all on the same side. The whole structure is completed with an attractive rope twist architrave, the ﬁnishing touch to a work of rural art.