Farmer Hook's Column: May
PUBLISHED: 02:08 05 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:22 20 February 2013
Steve Hook is one half of Hook & Son, who scooped the Farmer of the Year award at the Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2011/2012. In his first monthly column, he tells us about his deep agricultural roots
Thank you to Sussex Life for inviting me to write a monthly column. I will be writing about life on the farm and I will also take an occasional look at current local and national rural issues.
Its 7pm and Ive just got in and poured a glass of wine. Here goes
I am Steve Hook, and I run an organic dairy farm with my dad Phil at Longleys Farm, Hailsham. I am married to the very lovely Claire. We have four boys, George (19), Joe (17), Will (15) and Giles (11). The Hook family has farmed in Sussex for over 250 years, experiencing success and failure, farming empires built and lost.
My great great granddad Thomas Hook had Mill Farm at Ripe, near Lewes, at the turn of the century. He was quite a character, with a big stern face and gnarled, hard-working hands. He fathered a family of 16 children, although four of them died whilst still children.
My great granddad George was the village wheelwright. He sported a wonderful moustache, but it wasnt a match for his fathers WG Grace beard. George died in his thirties, leaving his wife with three young boys. My granddad Monty was the eldest. He wanted to farm, but the farm was sold during the depression of the Thirties. Monty successfully applied for a farm workers job at Longleys Farm.
With his wife Mercy (he was always thankful for small mercies) and three daughters, they moved into the old farm workers cottage in 1937. Five years later, dad was born. He was to be named Philip George Hook with his middle name after the wheelwright grandfather he never knew. However, Philips great granddad Thomas also died the day dad was born, so dad gained an extra middle name, and became PGT Hook.
Monty and Mercy lived in the farm cottage for 50 years. It is the same farm cottage that Claire and I have lived in now for nearly twenty years. Its great for our boys to be growing up on the farm that their dad and granddad grew up on too. In terms of farming, we have had to diversify. In 2007 dad and I started selling our own raw milk with just twelve pints in a Volvo estate. Today we sell nearly 5,000 pints per week, with15 people working for us!
We have a herd of 66 Friesians, mainly for dairy but we also do a little bit of beef and organic rose veal. Theres a real buzz on the farmweve just turned the cows out onto wonderful spring grass, the sun is shining, and Ida had her second heifer calf this morning!