SUSTAINABILITY is at the heart of everything at Cronkshaw Fold Farm and Study Centre in Helmshore, and leading the march is Dot McCarthy. Dot was brought up on family farm and worked on farms in Croatia, Norway, Finland and Scotland, before taking over from her mum Joy around four years ago. Since then, she has introduced innovation, including goat yoga and Zoom and the farm also has four AirBnBs, including a converted tree house. All are individual and offer stunning views over the Alden Valley.
The farm’s quirky offering led it to feature in a BBC documentary that went national and helped the business to thrive and last year Cronkshaw Fold won the Rossendale Business Awards Visit Rossendale trophy – nominations for this year’s awards opened on Wednesday September 16.
Covid-19 temporarily suspended educational visits, which have been an essential part of the farm for years. Ever the innovator, Dot introduced Facebook live farm tours that were viewed by thousands of people. When friends grumbled about Zoom business meetings becoming dull, Dot suggested ‘hiring a goat’ to spice up online meetings… it went viral. Now a number of the farm’s 40 goats are available to ‘book’, each has its own personality, there are no Equity issues and they cost just £5 for five minutes.
Dot, 31, said: “The Goat video call idea was originally just meant as a joke, but the goats, but now, they have ‘visited’ many countries around the world, but they have never been to Greenland or Antarctica… yet. Some bosses did not get the joke when their employee added a goat to meetings. We also had bosses adding goats to their employees meetings to check if their staff were paying attention. Employees would sit in silent hysterics trying to keep a straight face while watching their bosses trying to assert authority while a mysterious goat bleats at them.”
The money from the video calls enabled Dot to reemploy her apprentice and part-time member of staff and to take on three more part-time workers to manage the demand for goat video calls. Her goal is to raise enough money to switch farm vehicles and machinery from diesel to electric, convert to lower carbon farming models and to buy renewable power technologies for the farm to not only supply all the farm’s electricity needs, but also feed energy back into the National Grid ensuring the farm’s continued sustainability for decades to come.
She said: “In 10 years time the climate crisis will have caused extreme global challenges unless we act now. We need to reduce our carbon footprint and creating more renewable power. Climate change needs to be addressed now.”
The farms quirky accommodation is now reopen for bookings via AirBnB, and goat yoga has resumed. From September, the farm’s educational visits resumed for small groups, honey bees have been introduced to the farm and Dot is working with an expert to research farming insects as a high protein animal feed alternative along with developing an online platform to help farmers sell direct to consumers which Dot started working on in 2017.
For more information visit https://www.cronkshawfoldfarm.co.uk/
Nominations for the 2020 Rossendale Business Awards will be open until October 21. To nominate a business log on to https://r-awards.co.uk/
Story by Catherine Smyth Media