PM Boris Johnson visits Peak District – discussing Brexit and lambs “in the Aga”

PM Boris Johnson visited Derbyshire today to meet a Stoney Middleton farming family as part of a drive to support British meat exports post-Brexit.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 4:40 pm

While at Longstone Moor farm in what he described as “one of the most beautiful parts of the world” Mr Johnson also took an opportunity to feed some calves and a baby lamb.

As he bottle-fed the young sheep Mr Johnson - who grew up on an Exmoor hill farm - commented “we used to put them in the bottom of the Aga”.

Boris told the anecdote - a commonly-practised way of keeping orphaned lambs alive - while sat beside Sarah and Hayley Fairfax - daughters of the farm’s tenants Stuart and Leanne Fairfax.

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Boris has a cuppa with the Fairfaxes. From left, Stuart, Jonathan, 12, Hayley, 14, Sarah, 16 and Leanne

He also quipped to the snickering teens that “I’m actually quite used to doing this now - but it doesn’t normally go down at this rate”.

The PM told Derbyshire Times afterwards how his grandfather’s Somerset farm was built on rugged terrain not unlike the Peak District’s and “wasn’t brilliant land”.

He said: “When there was an orphaned lamb we’d put them in the bottom of the Aga - when they were still alive, of course.”

Adding that his grandfather “went bust a while ago”, the PM said: “I think farming is a wonderful life and I think farmers do a wonderful job.

The PM thanks the Fairfax family after receiving some free range eggs from Jonathan, aged 12

“Some years can be very tough and you’ve got to look after the farming community because they’re the backbone of the community.

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“The pandemic has shown you cannot just rely on the idea that the UK can always buy something from abroad.”

Responding to a question about funding for farmers to replace that lost from the EU after Brexit Mr Johnson described the EU funding as a “one size fits all” policy that “didn’t make sense”.

Boris Johnson bottle-feeds a lamb with dad Stuart Fairfax and his two daughters Hayley and Sarah

He said: “We’ll move to something that will promote British farming and support British agricultural industry and also beautify our landscape.

“The great opportunity is to get rid of some of the rules and red tape from Brussels - they did come in a pretty think and fast and unconsulted way.

“But we can support farmers in being absolutely ruthless in exporting great British produce.”

Speaking about the visit National Farmers Union president Minette Batters said the union were keen to have the PM out to a farm in England while he was in the north campaigning.

Touching on Brexit she said: “There’s so much risk, opportunity and change and here in Derbyshire it’s a challenging place to farm.

“It’s brilliant that he’s come out and had the conversation with Stuart and Leanne and the children.”

Stuart Fairfax - dad of Sarah and Hayley and a former farm manager - who took on the 490-acre cattle farm in October - said: “We’re probably one of the highest farms in the White Peak.

“So the terrain is hilly, the weather is a factor with the sort of farming we can do here - it’s predominantly grass, so that’s a challenge.

“This is a big step - there are so many things that can happen in the future but I’m a glass-half-full man and you just do what you have to do.”

A message from Phil Bramley, Derbyshire Times Editor: In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper.