Featured Farmer: Keith Hale of Tremelethen Farm

Introducing Keith Hale of Tremelethen Farm:

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How did your family first come to be on the Isles of Scilly?

My  Mother's family had been on the island of Tresco since the 16th Century, but after they moved to Exeter, she always wanted to return to the islands. She joined the Land Army, who let her return, and she worked at Tresco Abbey Gardens.

My Father moved to Tresco from Leicester as a herdsman for the estate. He was offered the position of herdsman at Tremelethen Farm in 1951 and we have been there ever since.

I met my wife, Sarah, in The Mermaid, who moved here when she was 6 with her parents to  take over the Gold Farm, which also grew Scented Narcissi. She helps all winter on the farm with tying and grading Tremelethen Farm flowers.

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How did you get into farming?

I went away to boarding school and absolutely hated it! I returned as soon as I could after my 'O' Levels to help my father, and took over the farm from him when he passed away in 1951. My son, Rob, went away to Seale Hane Agricultural College, and has been helping Sarah and I on the farm for ten years now.

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What else have you farmed on Tremelethen?

My father loved milking cattle, and that along with potatoes was our main interest originally, growing Scented Narcissi and Daffs alongside these. Then, once plastic coverings became more widely used on the Mainland, there was less demand on the Islands for potatoes, so we concentrated all our efforts into farming Scented Narcissi.

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Tell us about your farm:

Tremelethen Farm is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, and is 50 Acres in total, which is made up of lots of small fields- each field that makes up the farm is about 1/3 of an Acre. As well as Scented Narcissi, our neighbour's cattle also graze on some of our land.

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What's One of Your Favourite Scented Narcissi Farming Memories?  

When I was 8 years old, picking in the fields, Bernard Chudleigh asked me to get his flask. I ran back with it, and finding the gate shut, threw it over the top....the entire thing smashed!

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 What's Your Favourite Thing About Farming Narcissi?

It has to be going out and picking that very first flower, and smelling it, and thinking "ahhhh"!

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What's Your Favourite Variety of Scented Narcissi?

Both mine and Sarah's favourite variety is Sols as it's the old standard, and the traditional Island flower.  It's better in so many ways: ease of picking, ease of tying, plus a lovely scent and colour. I also love Scilly Pride for it's deep red center.

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Tell us something about you that we don't know:

I am the starter for the World Championship Gig Races that are held on Scilly every year, and am a bass player in The Steamband which had BBC coverage to an audience of over 30 bIllion people on Millenium night. I've also attended 3 royal weddings.

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What's Your Favourite spot on the Isles of Scilly? 

The view from Golf Farm on St. Mary's.

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What's Your Favourite Farming Memory With Your Son, Rob Hale? 

When he was a little boy, Rob used to love coming along in the tractor with me, but he would always fall asleep as soon as we started going, with his head nodding around all over the place as we went across the fields.

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Any Tips For a Healthy "Father-Son" Working Relationship?

A Father and Son working together doesn't mean we always agree on the same things, but we have a safety valve if things ever get heated! There was another farming father and son who once got in so irate with each other,  a hammer was thrown, so whenever things get a little heated, one of us will mention the hammer to lighten the mood!

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Look our for our next "Featured Farmer" interview with Keith's son, Rob Hale in the coming weeks!

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