The battle of Waterloo Cottage Farm!

Building your own pesticide-free Garden of Eden near Market Harborough is a constant scrap. But the results taste magnificent…

It started with two pigs: Fleur and Ruth. They were happy pigs, and they were lucky pigs because in the piggy game of life, they’d hit pay dirt. In 2007 they arrived at a tiny new five-acre farm in north Northamptonshire. There, their new owners, Angus and Kirsty Clarke, were beginning a new chapter together. And happily for Fleur and Ruth, it involved caring for animals to the highest possible welfare standards. True, one day Fleur and Ruth would be bacon, but until that day came, this porky pair would eat the best food available and enjoy exceptional care. 

Inspirational ethos

Today, Fleur and Ruth frolic in swine heaven, but the farm onto which they arrived in 2007 continues to expand. Waterloo Cottage Farm in Great Oxendon near Market Harborough now consists of 125 acres, a farm shop, a butchery, community garden, café and glamping site with yurts. It’s getting its own market garden, too, and Market Harborough-focused shopping website, EdibLE16, calls the farm its home. The ethos behind Waterloo Cottage is inspiring, and if food is a priority for you, you might want to pay it a visit.

It all came about because Angus – formerly in the paper trade – and Kirsty – an ex-children’s intensive care nurse – dreamt of becoming part-time farmers. They wanted to produce food that they knew came from animals and land that was healthy and well cared for. The pair felt disconnected from the food they were eating and believed it was damaging their health. The solution? Produce their own.

Healthier meat

Kirsty says: “Supermarkets sell processed food that’s high in salt and full of preservatives. They also push farmers to produce nutritionally deficient foods by trashing the soils. This food is creating a world full of attention deficiencies, allergies, asthma and cancer. Our passion is to create an environment where animals eat natural foods, remain happy for longer, produce healthier meat and maintain healthy soils.”

Kirsty and Angus soon learnt (with the help Fleur and Ruth) a great deal about pesticide-free farming. “First, we truly understood for the first time that what you feed your animals determines the quality of their meat,” says Kirsty. “Second, we learnt that there’s a symbiotic relationship between plants, soil and organisms. And third, we saw for ourselves that what you eat directly affects how healthy you are. We started to feel better, both mentally and physically. Waterloo Cottage Farm is about caring for the environment, feeding our animals well, and feeding people well.” 

Expanding the farm

Angus adds: “We farm sustainably, adhering to the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association guidelines, moving animals and crops in a way that reduces the need for chemicals. Our cattle and sheep graze on the pasture – high protein sward containing, among other plants, lucerne, red clover and grass.” In December 2010, just a few months after becoming farmers, they opened a farm shop. This meant they could sell their surplus pork but also created the need for more stock to fill the shelves and satisfy growing customer demand. So, they introduced more pigs and sheep to the farm.

The yurts

The next step was to employ a master butcher, while Kirsty turned her hand to making ready meals ad charcuterie. The butcher handled the meat and Kirsty made pies, lasagnas, sausages, pork pies, charcuterie and more for the shop. Soon after, the demand for products broadened, so they introduced beef and poultry. The final additions were teas, coffees, preserves, pickles, British cheeses, local vegetables, local beers and an impressive selection of Adnams wines. Today when you visit Waterloo Cottage Farm, you’ll find a very well stocked shop with a wide range of products, all of which have been carefully sourced, bred, grown, prepared or cooked.

Inside the Canvas Café

Sense of community

More recently, they’ve teamed up with local entrepreneurs Jen Lyon and Lara Collis to open an on-site café – Canvas Café – plus a luxury glamping area. And continuing the collaborative theme, they’re now working with Pearmans Farm Shop of Billesdon, Leicestershire, to create a market garden to produce pesticide-free vegetables, fruit and herbs. Waterloo Cottage Farm also hosts a thriving community garden, run by enthusiasts from the local area.

Inside one of the yurts

Put all of these ingredients together and you’ve got a little slice of Eden just outside Market Harborough; and it’s an Eden that creates, sells and serves delicious, nutritious, ecologically-friendly food and drink. As Kirsty and Angus will attest, pesticide-free farming is a tough, relentless battle, but it’s also rewarding – especially with the community spirit it creates. It all started with two pigs – Fleur and Ruth – and a couple’s dream; it is growing into something special. Waterloo Cottage Farm has come a long way in ten short years.

Visit Waterloo Cottage Farm’s website here.

Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.