A LOCAL father and son farming team have been nominated for an award.
Phil and Steve Hook from Longleys Farm, Hailsham, have been nominated for the Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year award. The awards ceremony is on Thursday, October 4.
The Hook family, are members of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), have been farming in East Sussex for more than 250 years.
Innovation is paramount for Phil and Steve Hook who now run an internet mail order company for the organic raw milk produced from their 65-cow herd in East Sussex.
Phil Hook said “We are delighted to be nominated for this award. Dairy farming has been in drastic decline for many years and as a result we decided a while ago to cut out the middle man and sell direct to our customers.
“The online business is doing well but we also like to meet our customers so we regularly attend local farmers’ markets such as the Hailsham Farmers Market.”
The dairy herd’s welfare and health is top priority on the farm. However, organically farmed cows produce nearly 50 per cent less milk than those farmed conventionally.
The Hook family believe the cows benefit from this lower yield and are less prone to mastitis and lameness. Indeed, the cows on average live to be nine or ten years old, compared to the national average of six.
CLA member Steve Hook said, “Everything is done to make the cows’ daily life as stress-free and happy as possible and this makes my day really enjoyable too.
“There are all kinds of worries about raw milk but our cows are milked in a hygienic environment, using advanced milking equipment that is kept sterile.
“We pay incredible attention to hygiene to ensure the strict bacteria tests conducted on the milk by the Food Standards Agency are easily met. The only danger is that customers will be addicted to the taste of real milk.”
The family believe working in harmony with and enhancing the local ecology is also very important.
The 180-acre farm is on the western edge of the Pevensey Levels which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.