14th October 2022
In this series about the region’s food producers and farmers, farmer Dinah Nabarro and butcher David Roebuck chat to Eve Laws from the Romsey office of the law firm Thrings.
Two unlikely career switches are behind the success of Bere Mill Farm and Butchery, a small business that’s big on traditional farming, environmental responsibility and giving back to the local community.
Dinah Nabarro swapped life as a social worker for running the family farm, which sits on the tranquil banks of the River Test, while head butcher David Roebuck was formerly deputy headmaster of a Hampshire primary school.
Dinah’s parents Rupert and Elizabeth bought the almost derelict mill, house and its land from the paper-making Portal family – owners of nearby Laverstoke Mill, now home to Bombay Sapphire – in the early 1990s.
Over several years the couple lovingly restored the buildings, created beautiful gardens and made it their home. Farming featured very little, with the land rented out for grazing.
Dinah started helping out here and there before deciding to leave social work and go full-time on the farm around six years ago. Since then, she has established a flock of 400 sheep and a herd of around 150 rare breed cattle, including 35 breeding cows – mainly the Belted Galloway variety, known for producing richly flavoured beef.
“The breeds were chosen because you need something hardy that will survive on the water meadows,” says Dinah. “They look really lush, but they are really low on nutrients – but fortunately Belted Galloways will eat anything!
“We’re all about natural pasture feeding and we don’t rush – most farms finish beef animals at between 18 and 22 months, but most of ours will be on the farm until they are around 28 months. This way, you get a much better flavour.”
Disaster struck in 2018 when an electrical fault sparked a fire which destroyed the lovingly restored house and mill. The community rallied round in the clean-up operation and a second restoration is now almost complete.
The house includes an events room at the back which is used by the local school for storytelling, art, and workshops. Dinah is passionate about access to the countryside for everyone – not an elite few.
David, a family friend, helped on the farm after deciding to leave his 25-year career in teaching. He developed a passion for butchery and took a two-year apprenticeship during lockdown while running the on-site butchery, which is now open from Wednesday to Saturday each week.
For him, it’s all about providing an experience. “You have to make an effort to get here but people like to look and choose and get that personal service,” he says with pride. “And when people ask where the meat comes from, I can just point at the field and tell them – over there!”.
If you would like to know more about any of the issues raised in this article please contact Eve Laws, a senior associate in the agriculture team at the Romsey office of Thrings.