Georgie Mitchell gave up her job as a university lecturer teaching Child Development and Counselling and used a £7000 Start Up Loan to launch The Nests Little Smallholding, a rare breeds farm in the Ribble Valley, near Burnley, Lancashire. She ethically rears rare breed livestock that are free to roam, and sells her produce at farmers’ markets and supplies private hog roasts.
Georgie keeps all of her pregnant ewes and sows in an outbuilding based at her home, and has other livestock spread across several other sites totalling 40 acres. She currently has a flock of 70 sheep, three breeding sows and various poultry. She uses the animals for meat or breeding, except for the poultry who provide eggs only.
Two years ago Georgie helped out on a local farm whilst studying for her PGCE, and found an injured lamb. She asked the farmer if she could take the lamb home and nurse it back to health. After a couple of weeks, unsure if the lamb would survive, Georgie came home one day to find the healthy lamb bouncing around on the dining table! Soon after, the lamb was moved to her children’s Wendy house in the garden, before they realised that they would need to find a piece of land on which to keep her. Georgie spoke to a friend who was renting out a piece of land and this became Dotty the sheep’s new home.
After her experience rearing Dotty, Georgie decided to purchase more and more sheep and then bought some pigs to rear meat for the family. When the meat returned from the butcher’s Georgie was inundated with requests from friends and family to purchase the meat. It was then that she realised that she could make a business out of it.
Georgie has two young children, Dolly and Billy (3 and 6), and found that she rarely got to see them when working as a lecturer, so she quit her job and registered as a self-employed smallholder in May 2016. She was then encouraged to contact Business Enterprise and apply for finance. Georgie completed her business plan and was told by the advisor at BE that it was so good that no changes were required, and the application for her £7000 loan went straight through, allowing her to purchase more animals and rent more land.
Georgie does not currently employ anyone, but her partner and children help with the animals. She sells her produce at farmer’s markets three times a month and has also received interested from local restaurants who want to purchase her rare breed, excellent quality meat.
Georgie’s biggest challenges have come from a lack of knowledge about farming, but since starting out she has taught herself all she needs to know about the business. She has also found that, as a woman who rarely leave the house without make-up, many of the male farmers failed to take her seriously. However, after seeing her working the farm and attending auctions, they are now more receptive to what she is doing and help her to source additional pieces of land when required.
In the future Georgie plans to purchase a farm where she can live and keep the animals close by rather than having to pour huge chucks of her profit into the petrol tank. She is also about to return to teaching part-time in primary schools with a programme that she has written called ‘Thought For Food’, which aims to educate children about rearing livestock, meat production and incorporates ICT, maths and literally skills. Further to this, Georgie plans to start selling chicken, and would like to add to her animal stock. She had considered purchasing calves but, after a recent head-butt by a sheep that resulted in a broken jaw, has decide against this for now.
Georgie worked with a mentor and found it to be very helpful. Of the Start Up Loans process she said:
“It’s been amazing and I couldn’t ask for anything more. The two ladies I worked with were very helpful and supportive and it was great to have someone who understood the loan process believing in me.”
Georgie plans to apply for top-up funding imminently to help fund the educational aspect of the business and as well as a new vehicle.