A Bit of History
Jack Forster - 18 February 2011
Hi everyone, thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I thought I would use this first entry to introduce myself, and give a bit of background to the farm, and our journey to becoming organic. I hope to use my blogs to give you an insight into what goes on at our family farm and a few updates on the rugby too!
Going back to when my great granddad was alive, J & J Forster were livestock dealers and meat wholesalers, attending regular (many now bulldozed) cattle markets buying hundreds of cattle a week to put through the abattoir that we owned in the centre of Wigan (now a multi storey car park!). The abattoir was before my lifetime, but I do recall going to many cattle markets, such as Preston, Skipton, Congleton and Beeston on a weekly basis in my dad’s cattle wagon listening to ‘The Blues Brothers!’ It was at these markets that my love of farming started to develop I think, and it was at the age of about 10 that I reared my first 6 ‘orphan’ lambs and sold them at market all by myself!
Unfortunately, the last 13 years have taken there toll on British farming, and after the BSE scare, and then of course Foot and Mouth, the trade as we knew it changed significantly. Markets seemed to be shutting down left right and centre, and my mum and dad realised that they needed to steer the business in a different direction. We were already calving cows and lambing sheep, but we decided that instead of selling the offspring commercially we would cut out the numerous middlemen and sell beef and lamb direct to local customers. This developed from using a local butchery to cut up our meat to us now having our own on farm butchery and shop. About 10 years ago we decided that to really do well at Farmers Markets, and get customers to turn up our drive to buy meat, we needed a unique selling point. It was then that we decided to go organic, using the Soil Association. At the time it was a bit of a ‘buzz word’, but the more we have farmed organically, the more we have come to realise the real benefits and merits of organic farming practises.
Throughout my time at school, I was always convinced that I would go straight into the farm after university, but this was not to be. I have played rugby since I was about 8. Mum and Dad used to take me to all my matches growing up, and I was lucky enough to get selected for England U16s and U18s. When I left school, I went down to do an Agricultural Degree at Hartpury College and was picked up by Gloucester Rugby Club, and got my first professional contract. I have been a professional rugby player ever since, but have always maintained my passion for farming. I am now at Sale Sharks, which is a great club, and is also only 20 miles from the farm, which is perfect for me. Its great to be able to switch off from rugby, after a hard day, go back to the farm and help out.
Having been injured since October 2010, it has given me a lot of time to get stuck in at the farm, and take my mind off the frustration of being injured. I have also discovered Facebook and Twitter as a way of reaching customers, and it is through these networking sites that I was able to get involved in this blog.
That’s enough history now, I hope to make my blogs much more concise moving forward, but I am stuck in a hotel room with nothing to do, waiting to play Harlequins in London tomorrow, and got a bit carried away!! First game back after 3 months out, so very excited!
Jack is a professional rugby player with Sale Sharks, but also has an active role in his family's farm in St Helens. The family are fourth generation farmers and and own two Soil Association licensed organic farms. All the cattle and sheep that are reared on the farm are butchered through the on farm butchery, and sold to local people through the farm shop, local deliveries and local farmers' markets. Jack is a keen supporter of British farming and wants to encourage more people to 'buy local and think organic'. He studied agriculture at Hartpury College and aims to go back into farming when he retires from rugby.