The Gay family business is multi-faceted and all encompassing. Third generation tenants Hugh and Celia are farming with their four children: Kirsty, 28; Naomi, 25; and twins will and Josh 22; with the boys now working full-time.

It is this collaborative working which earned the Bath-based business the accolade of last year’s Family Farm of the Year Award, as part of the British Farming Awards, co-organised by Farmers Guardian.

The family reacted to market forces by giving up milking in 2000 and began adding value to their beef suckler herd by selling the home-produced beef directly to customers.

Celia says: “It all started with Hugh going out in the evenings, after a hard day on the farm, and literally finding customers.”

By being persistent and providing a quality, traceable product, the business grew into a small farm-based butchery in a converted lorry container, employing one part-time butcher in just a few years.

Turn the clock forwards and the butchery is now based in a redundant barn and employs three full-time and one part-time butcher, selling home produced beef and other locally sourced pork and other meats.

The butchery has developed into a full farm shop and licensed cafe, serving food seven days-a-week, and particularly showcases their home-produced meats.

Alongside this, the business provides an outside catering service, providing hogroasts, lamb roasts, BBQs and a full buffet catering service for businesses, events and parties.


While it has been a huge journey of change, diversification into direct meat sales and catering services, which runs under the brand of Newton Farm Foods, has been the family’s biggest challenge.

As a tenant on the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate, the family is under further pressure to progress the business and manage risk.

Celia says: “Being a tenancy, we are very vulnerable to commodity price variations, and our direct meat sales is one way we can reduce the effect of price fluctuation.

“As tenants, to survive we have to be lean and keen and our farming practice needs to be resourceful, with minimal waste and careful planning.

“We have taken the opportunities offered to us by our landlord, the main one being in 2011 to move to the farm next door while maintaining the tenancy of the land on our original farm.”

This enabled the family to almost double their Duchy tenanted acreage and benefit from an extensive range of new barns and a modern handling system, which have all in turn seen an increase in herd size.

Celia says: “While negotiating our move, the landlord allowed us to keep the barn we had installed our butchery and cutting room into, and some other old redundant stone barns too.

“We therefore created a large, light and characterful new cafe in the barn which had originally been our milking parlour. This has increased the footfall into our shop considerably.”

The grassroots business Hugh started by delivering house-to-house still continues, now with a much greater range of products, and is carried out by both Hugh and Kirsty in the evenings.

Eldest daughter Kirsty heads up the cafe and outside catering service, and manages a team of 30 people who work in the kitchen and cafe.

Helping Out

Although Naomi works as a teacher by day, she spends her holidays helping out with the farm shop and events, while helping in the butchery at Christmas when more than 700 orders need sorting and packing for collection or delivery.

Josh has recently graduated with a degree in agriculture from Reading University and plans to return to the farm full-time after spending a little time looking at agriculture systems around the world.

William has one more year to go to complete his degree in mechanical engineering and both boys have worked every holiday either on-farm, producing poultry for Christmas, or in developing the butchery and farm shop business, delivering meat, helping with hogroasts, clearing tables, washing up, selling Christmas trees, fixing things and painting.

Despite such hands-on roles, all of the children have travelled further afield to learn about other systems and practices to enhance their farming knowledge.

Celia says: “Travelling the world has enhanced their contribution to the business by having a broader view on what we do here.”

Hugh, having transferred his energy and enthusiasm from dairy farming to beef farming, has along with Celia built up a 450-strong herd.

About 100 of these are pedigree South Devons and the rest are Angus and Hereford crosses. The beef herd is run on a mainly grass-fed, low input basis and the family are keen to develop genetics by using selective breeding and AI.

Celia says: “The small herd of pigs and small flock of sheep have been developed to supply our own butchery and give the customer the traceabilty they demand, as well as adding value to our produce.”

Hugh spends most of his time on-farm tending livestock and the 243 hectares (600 acres) of arable land which produces wheat, barley and beans. He also oversees two employees.

While taking the opportunity to merge two of the Duchy of Cornwall farms together, the Gays entered the higher Level Stewardship scheme on both.

Hugh says: “We believe this helps re-inforce to our customers the meat they buy is farmed in a traditional, non-intensive way, which is also considerate of the environment.

“The horsemeat scandal made many consumers realise things are not always what they seem and so many of our customers are putting their trust into a local farm they feel is being honest and caring, as well as producing an excellent product.”

Transparency and welfare standards have paid off after their pork and beef received three stars twice in the Great Taste Awards, along with a host of other accolades.

Hugh says: “By striving to produce the best quality in an honest and transparent way, we hope to ensure the future of this farm and enable our children to have an opportunity to stay within agriculture, producing food from field to fork.”

Working with their local community is important to the family, who have worked with local charity Sendacow and have fundraised for it, as well as recently planting its own Keyhole Garden.

Hugh says: “This is in our children’s play area to show families some of the work Sendacow is doing in Africa, as well as growing our own fantastic veg and salads for our cafe.

“We run supper clubs quarterly, again to showcase the wonderful array of foods produced in our region, and we also invite other successful local chefs here to do demonstrations, many of which we have run as fundraisers for our local church here in Newton St Loe.”

It does not stop locally, however, as Celia wants to spread the ethos of the family farm to a wider audience, and will be offering visitors an authentic site experience.

Large Open Day

On August Bank Holiday weekend, the family will be hosting their first large open day, which will offer farm tours, education on crops, livestock and wildlife, all complete with a hogroast and band.

As with all families, there have been disagreements along the way, but ultimately they collectively find a way of moving forward stronger than before.

Celia says: “Our proudest achievement is we have all contributed to the growth of Newton Farm Foods through hard work and sustained commitment.

“Sometimes we disagree on the best way forward and, as in all families, ideas are debated and sometimes argued. But, when it comes down to it, everyone is willing to pull their weight in one way or another.”