In the next five to ten years, Dot wants to run the whole farm with renewable energy by installing solar panels and wind turbines. “It’s something I’m very passionate about. I want to do anything I can to mitigate climate change by encouraging people to come to the farm to learn about food and farming. I want to make it easier for them to go on holiday in the UK or charge their car if they have an electric one.”
Energy and automotive company Tesla have donated three charging points for electric cars for those who visit the farm. “We want to encourage people to think about their impact on the environment on a wider scale - electric cars are part of that,” says Dot.
Climate change is one of the many topics covered at the farm’s study centre. “You can feed more people with a field of crops than you can with grass fed animals,” she explains.
Dot welcomes everyone to the farm, from toddlers to university students. As part of her mini farm explorers group for children under four, the toddlers come and collect the eggs and feed the chickens. “Sometimes the eggs get smashed but it’s worth it,” she says.
She also arranges weekly visits for children from primary schools across Lancashire; there are 4,000 schoolchildren who visit the farm annually. “We’ve seen such a difference not only in the children but in the staff.” The older students are often on placements for veterinary or agriculture courses. “They learn about dietary requirements, how to worm sheep and goats, lambing and the best practice for managing grassland for bees and insects.”
Learning on the job
Dot knows better than anyone that the best way to learn is on the job. She grew up on the farm with her two sisters and brother and helped her mum look after the sheep and collect eggs. She also spent a lot of time training their sheepdogs, something she continues to do today. But as the youngest of four, she never imagined she would one day run the whole farm. “Normally the oldest takes over the farm,” she says. But, as it turned out, Dot was the only one of her siblings in a position to take it on.
When her mum had a hip replacement, she called Dot to ask her if she would consider running the farm. “I wasn’t 100% sure but I thought I could always have a go and then change my mind,” she says.
To begin with, she ran the farm part-time while she finished her course at Manchester University in Satellite Data Analysis, the study of mapping data. “It was very busy and slightly crazy and I got hardly any sleep.”
She did her undergraduate course in Geography at Aberystwyth University. After graduating, she spent some time working abroad in Norway and Finland training the huskies that pull the sleds. “It was very cool - minus 45 cool,” she says. She was in the Arctic, mid-husky run when her mum asked her to come back to the farm - a phone call that marked a new chapter in her career.