We bought Henden estate in June 1997. It has a long history, according to records going back over a thousand years. The current Manor House was likely to have been built in the 15th century. At various times the estate was owned by the Earl of Warwick, the Crown when Henry VIII was King, Sir Thomas and then Mary Boleyn, Sir John Gresham and then other luminaries of their time. More recently, in the 1930s Alfred Hitchcock made frequent visits to see his friend the Ealing Film Producer Sir Michael Balcon, who was leasing the Estate. So, today we are simply custodians of Henden. It is our responsibility to help maintain it in a way that is sustainable for the coming centuries.
Henden Manor Estate is a dairy farm, located close to Sevenoaks in west Kent. We have some 500 acres of land and around 460 Holstein Friesian livestock. We milk on average 240 cows three times a day currently to produce around 3 million litres per year. This milk is supplied to Marks & Spencers through the processor group Muller. We employ six full time and two part time staff. The dairy team is one of the youngest in the UK, something we are proud of.
Our ambitions for Henden are simply to produce the best quality milk under the highest possible sustainable standards of staff and animal welfare, regulatory compliance and environmental protection. Economics for our sector remain challenging. Milk prices have not supported truly high quality, sustainable farming and in the dairy sector this is evidenced by the fact that over the period February 2008 to February 2018 4,000 farms have shut down. England has lost a quarter of its dairy farms.
Today, there is a live debate about food. Over the years our country has had a few scares relating to food. We also have had the realisation that demand for food is becoming increasingly global, an example being the demand for dry powdered milk coming from China. Until food is valued and priced properly the debate and scares will persist. Ultimately, the public and the consumer have to speak with one voice and decide what they want: cheap food of unknown origin or slightly more expensive food, which is traceable, sustainable and of good quality.
This brings us to the purpose of this website. Our hope is that it will help you understand what it takes to be good at dairy farming, what risks and challenges confront us through the year and what it takes to have a sustainable business which all of our stakeholders, including you, can be proud of. We work in an industry, which is not as transparent as it should be. We hope that you will see on this website we are being transparent about our farming operations. Have we got everything right? No, but we are trying and have work to do. We aim to be one of the very best dairy farms. It is a long journey and we are not there yet. Short termism, commonplace in Stock Market driven companies and with some individuals, has no place in the business of quality food production and supply.
We hope you enjoy this website and find it interesting and useful. We have enjoyed putting it together.