Cornish farming challenge 'a childhood dream'

Tregullas Farm
Image caption Tregullas Farm, on the Lizard, is mainland Britain's most southerly farm.

For Rona Amiss, since the age of three all she wanted to be was a farmer.

It was a career no-one else in her family had ever undertaken but one Mrs Amiss was determined to achieve.

"I always wanted to be a farmer. You have to have big ambitions or else you won't get anywhere.

"I went to agricultural college. I don't think my parents were initially impressed at the idea," she recalls.

But after years honing her skills Mrs Amiss, her husband Nevil and their five children now run Tregullas Farm, on the Lizard in Cornwall, mainland Britain's most southerly farm.

Image caption The farm boasts stunning coastal views in this mild but often windy part of Cornwall

The National Trust, which owns the site, said it received hundreds of applications for the job of running the 96.6 hectare farm.

The organisation held open days and spent several months searching for the type of tenant it was looking for.

For the Trust, it was not about who offered the most money for the tenancy, but the best opportunities for the land, wildlife and the thousands of visitors who pass through Tregullas farm on the way to the Lizard Point.

Mrs Amiss said: "People have been so welcoming... We are not used to farming on the coast, but people are helping us. It's a great community.

"There's all sorts of horror stories about salt winds. I think we've had it easy so far. We've just had a really dry six weeks. We're being eased into it gently. But farming is always a challenge."

Image caption The Lizard Lighthouse, built in 1752, overlooks fields which have been owned by the National Trust for more than 20 years

The Amiss family previously farmed on Dartmoor near Exeter, developing their business in cattle, sheep, duck eggs and goat meat, selling both locally and further afield.

Mrs Amiss said: "Everyday there's something new to discover. It's very exciting."

Since the time the Domesday Book was written, farming has taken place on the Lizard, a mild - but often wild - land in west Cornwall.

It is a popular spot in the summer season, with an estimated 200,000 people visiting the Lizard Point each year, walking, cycling or driving past the farmhouse.

In the winter it can be a very different place, but any concerns the family may have had about isolation quickly disappeared.

Image caption With help from Natural England, new wildlife ponds have been dug on the farm

The mild Lizard climate and good soil at Tregullas provides ideal conditions for growing vegetables, and in the past the farm has successfully grown potatoes, brassicas and bulbs.

The Amiss family intend to continue this tradition while also bringing in community projects.

They have embarked on a crowdfunding venture to raise capital and intend to reward investors in the future with produce from the farm.

Mrs Amiss said: "This project is to raise some funds to develop a vegetable enterprise on just one acre in the first year, but expanding to five by 2016.

"We are looking to grow garlic, brassicas, salad leaves and some flowers for cutting."

As well as farming and community projects, the family is also keen to maintain wildlife in the area.

Fields by the farm provided much of the feeding ground for the first breeding pair of Cornish choughs in the county.

With help from Natural England, new wildlife ponds have been dug on the farm, bird seed mixes sown amongst the arable crops and chough-friendly coastal grazing extended along the cliffs.

As the family prepares for their first Christmas on the Lizard, Mrs Amiss says they are confident about the future.

"Farming is one of those things, you do it for the future. There's so many things we can do.

"It's a long tenancy, a big commitment. But it's a tremendous place. Everyday there's something new to discover. It really is exciting."

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