Yockenthwaite farmhouse in Langstrothdale sits above the River Wharfe, with the land rising behind it onto the high moors. Stuart’s father and grandfather farmed here before him, and their forefathers: the Hirds have been here as tenant farmers since 1842.
Farming primarily with his older son Edward, Stuart looks after a herd of 1000 ewes (Dalesbred and Swaledale) and a small number of cattle. The grazing land extends onto two commons, totalling 2500 acres. In addition to farming, the family has a business making granola, which has gone from strength to strength, with a nationwide distribution and burgeoning online sales. Stuart’s wife, Liz, leads this with the support of their younger son David, and a growing team.
The Dales Way footpath passes through Yockenthwaite. Stuart has set aside one of the traditional barns by the farmhouse as a help-yourself drinks station for walkers. Sometimes there’s homemade flapjack available as well.
Stuart believes farmers should have a greater say in determining payments for hill farming, and is in favour of new schemes that involve farmers in discussing terms and monitoring the land, such as High Nature Value farming and the Payments by Outcomes schemes. ‘The schemes are an important part of our business: a system that encourages us to farm without having to intensify, and consequently maintain the landscape and environment that people enjoy visiting.’