When we established Horsell’s Farm Enterprises in 1999 we, Sophie and Roger Scruton, were keen to play our part in reviving the rural economy. We had acquired a run-down sheep-farm, and a few unprofitable animals, and were acutely aware of the need to bring urban income into the rural landscape if our countryside is to survive. Horsell’s Farm Enterprises was designed to supply this need. The small farms round about us were struggling in the business of turning grass into meat and milk. The solution, we saw, was to turn grass into ideas, which could be sold down the internet into the urban market, so bringing profit to the farm.
How do you turn grass into ideas? There are several methods. First you can write about it, and about the human fauna that hide in grass. Roger has followed this line, with regular columns about the countryside and life on the farm for various publications, including The Financial Times, Country Life and The Spectator. He has also written two widely acclaimed books on living with grass, On Hunting, 1998, and News from Somewhere, 2003. He is always looking for outlets for this work, and is currently working on a sequel to those books, dealing with the mysteries of the equestrian cult in Britain.
Our rural consultancy has offered advice and guidance to both commercial and charitable enterprises, as well as campaigning groups and academic researchers, on matters that draw on the life, the scent and the peace of grass. We would like to broaden this part of our business, so as to offer a summer school where students will learn the arts of countryside maintenance, including stonewalling, hedge-planting and hedge-laying, along with the environmental science of a sustainable grass economy. Our ability to combine the practical with the philosophical, the log-cutting with the logic-chopping, in addition to our knowledge of the local food economy and wine, and local history means we can offer students a wide ranging and fulfilling educational experience. To date the Institute of Psychological Sciences and the Centre for European Renewal have both taken up aspects of the course. We are currently in negotiation with an American college about offering this as a course for credit within the context of their summer programme.
As our business developed it became clear that we could make our own contribution to the debates over the environment and environmental management, as these have taken off in recent years. Through studying and managing a small grass farm Roger was inspired to research the wider context of ecological thinking, and to take issue with many of the fashionable but shallow solutions to the problem of environmental management. The result of this has been a series of publications, beginning with Animal Rights and Wrongs (2000) and culminating most recently in Green Philosophy, 2012, a book which is having a far-reaching impact on the environmental movement both here and in America.
In all our ventures horses perform an essential function. Our post-modern rural consultancy began when the Countryside Alliance approached us for advice and help with media relations, during the difficult times of their campaign on behalf of hunting with hounds. In many of our subsequent ventures horses have had a role, and we are now branching out in order to offer summer courses in the art of riding on grass. We invite applications now for the coming season, for one day or two-day courses. You will be encouraged to bring your own horse or, if necessary, you can hire one of ours. And you will have the opportunity to cross the traditional farm and its obstacles in a manner that prepares for the trails ahead.
While much of the demand for our work has been in the global sphere, our work is increasingly indispensible at the most local level, where our relationships with the primary producers of food has enabled us to start a branch of our business called Athelstan Farm Foods, which wholesales hand-made cheeses based in traditional Wiltshire recipes to hotels and restaurants in the area. We are seen by both the producers and the hospitality trade to be an indispensible link.
The above is only a sample of our activities. In general if your problem begins in grass and ends with a bright idea, we are the solution.