Sharing a farming enterprise

When Quentin and Maggie Edwards were left contemplating the future of their farm, a share farm agreement provided a vital lifeline for the family business. Kim John reports.
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As Quentin and Maggie Edwards approached their 70s, they started to question what the future would hold for their farm business. As their children were not yet ready to explore the option of taking over the family farm, Quentin and Maggie needed to secure their family’s future without selling the farm. The couple decided to embark on a share farm agreement with young entrant Tom Stinton.

Cools Farm is an organic farm in Wiltshire on the edge of Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Consisting of 200 acres, Quentin and Maggie came to the farm in 2003 while continuing their teaching careers. Quentin’s father purchased the farm in the 1970s. When they returned, the farm had been under the care of a tenant, and the Edwards realised some work was needed to make it a profitable business.

“In 2007, we started from scratch,” Quentin says. They had to recapitalise the farm, construct new buildings, repair others and install new fencing. They established a B&B in the farmhouse to provide income while the cattle grew. Other buildings have been converted to provide three self-catering holiday lets.

Introducing native cattle

Despite originally being a dairy farm, the couple did not want to commit to dairy farming and instead sought to rear beef cattle. They wanted a native breed of cattle and began researching what would suit the farm. They settled on Red Poll - a naturally polled, dual-purpose breed, historically used for dairy. “They are beautiful cattle with a lovely

nature,” Quentin says.

Once they decided on the breed, they saw an advert for a herd for sale in Farmers Weekly. Quentin and his parents set off to Monmouthshire to meet the owner and decided to buy the Wheatfield herd. Over the years, the Cools herd has developed and become the largest organic pedigree Red Poll cattle herd in the UK. Quentin is chair of the Red Poll Cattle Society, of which the Queen is patron – she used to have a herd at Sandringham, from which Quentin has purchased several bulls.

In 2019, the Edwards began to consider the future of the farm. Both their children, now in their early 40s

and with established careers, were not looking to return to run the farm soon, so Quentin and Maggie had to consider other options to secure its future. Quentin says: “Selling was not an option. We were loath to lose what we have established.” The pair looked at share farming as a potential solution.

Share farming

With help from the CLA’s assessment of share farming publication, Quentin and Maggie began to set out what they needed from a candidate. “We wanted someone young but who showed ability and was an all-rounder,” says Quentin. They wanted a candidate who would be prepared to pursue selling their organic grass-fed beef in local markets and on the internet.

Following applications, they interviewed four of the six applicants, with a panel comprising Quentin, Maggie, Quentin’s sister, who jointly owns the farmland, and their land agent adviser.

The shortlist was outstanding, but Tom was head and shoulders above the rest, bringing with him an extensive skills base.”


Tom shares their ethos toward regenerative, sustainable and organic farming methods and has a clear passion for his craft.

Despite not being from a farming background, Tom says: “I have always wanted to manage a farm, but it’s not easy for new entrants.” He was only 21 at the time, so getting into a farming tenancy was challenging, and he spent a lot of time trying out different methods of farming to find his calling. When he was 13, he developed a flock of sheep; then, after leaving school, he studied at Kingston Maurward College, Dorchester. The Edwards provide the land, the buildings, some equipment and capital. Tom provides his time, energy, new ideas, and more equipment and the capital in his sheep.

Once the assets of both parties were evaluated, an annually reviewed share farming contract was formulated, with future profits allocated at approximately half each. In October 2021, at the start of the agreement, Tom and his partner Emily Pickford moved to Cools Farm. Expecting to provide at least one year of mentorship, Quentin has already largely stepped back from managing the farm, leaving it under Tom’s care. With the help of Emily, Tom has rebranded Cools Farm as

Cools Farm Organics, created a new website and social media accounts, and introduced a branded trailer to sell both beef and lamb directly from the farm and at local markets. They have built on the loyal clientele established by Quentin and Maggie and have added their lamb and mutton to the sales. Maggie says: “Our purely grass-fed beef is like a fine wine, dry-aged and hung for three to four weeks. It is well-marbled and, once tasted, our customers return again and again. Tom’s delicious lamb and mutton add choice and variety.”

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Future plans

The plan is to extend and make the farm more profitable. Tom and Quentin have recently signed a contract with Lower Pertwood, a local organic farming estate, for additional land, allowing them to double the herd of Red Polls. They have already set about purchasing additional heifers and cows in calf.

Share farming is an act of faith. “You both have to want the same things and trust each other,” says Tom. “You also need a network of people around you.” Tom has gained significant knowledge from people in the industry, helping him through his farming journey. Quentin does not know whether his children will ever wish to take over the farm, but for now, and for at least the next decade, he knows it is in Tom’s very capable hands.

Considering share farming?

Quentin and Tom share their tips:

  1. 1. You must be prepared to work on equal terms.
  2. 2. Chemistry is key.
  3. 3. Build up relationships and a reputation – reputation provides opportunity.
  4. 4. Introduce a third-party professional to draw up a legal agreement. The adviser can act as a mediator during initial negotiations.
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