Laura Burlison is High Spen born and bred. She has that wonderful lilting North East accent and stoic pride whilst also being pragmatic and mischievous. She did herself and family proud when she gained access to University and came away with a degree in sociology. She then went off on the now obligatory world travels. It was there that it happened.
From the experience of her travels, and in particular a longish spell in New Zealand, she came back wanting not to be a youth worker, as when she left, but a ‘grower’. Someone who produced wholesome food, sustainably and with passion and sold locally……the sort of thing that you grow out of when you have been back a couple of weeks!
Well, its now three years since Laura returned and she is running a nice little business of a local eggs and veg box scheme, and producing a fair proportion of it herself, particularly in the summer. For Laura, unlike many in her position, getting land was the easy bit. When your family worked hard to buy a paddock 12 years previous so that they could have horses, its a no brainer. The horse has to move aside! In this case, he was fenced off into just a part of the paddock (she couldn’t send him to the knackers yard now could she?) and The Paddock, located between High Spen and Prudhoe was born as a business with Beau a regular spectator to the goings on.
The next thing, and she is still doing it, was to talk to local farmers and horticulturists and get their advice and support. In order to develop a quick income stream she started off with a 50 laying hens – now expanded as demand has grown to 150. They are still the backbone of the business and roam feely across The Paddock for most of the time. Sadly Mr Fox comes around when its quiet and the only protection is to gather them up in the hen coop.
The hens are being accompanied by an ever increasing array of veg growing. After enlisting local help in getting The Paddock (Ian at GO Local – more about them later!) ploughed over, Laura is gradually turning the place into something that looks and feels like a small holding whilst building up her box scheme. Winter wise she is still dependent on things bought in (much from Organic Pantry – again more of them later), as was the case when I photographed her making up her boxes.
The small holding now also houses a couple of pet goats, who again wander at will, and a gaggle of geese, who certainly wander at will! How the fox deals with them is a mystery – to a human, they are lethal! A rapier fast poke in the mid groin is no fun!
Great stuff Laura. A wonderful combination of strong ethical and sustainable practice combined with a pragmatism which gets a business going. Its a business which Laura willingly acknowledges owes an awful lot to ‘Mam and Dad’. Not only did they buy the smallholding in the first place, Laura is the first to admit that they have contributed an awful lot of hard work as well as ‘simply’ teaching a lot, particularly Dad, about keeping chickens and growing veg. The family is a fundamental part of Laura’s story – without them The Paddock simply wouldn’t be where it is today. Combining as it does traditional North East family ties with contemporary vision, sociology the loss is yours!!
For more see The Paddock
[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC!]