Surrey farmer Ian Jones on swapping corporate life for country life

PUBLISHED: 09:58 10 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:11 10 September 2018

Ian Jones (Photo by learnlandleisure.com)

Ian Jones (Photo by learnlandleisure.com)

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We catch up with Surrey farmer and business travel consultant Ian Jones, six months after he swapped corporate life in the city for country life on Hill House Farm

When I had a full-time job I almost used to wish my life away looking forward to the next weekend and time to hatch my escape plan to ditch the corporate life. Now that I’ve turned my pipe dream into a reality, I couldn’t be happier. Of course I still look forward to the weekends, but the difference now is that I look forward to every day.

Our weekends used to be dedicated to R&R, catching up with friends and doing all those chores you never had time to complete during the week. Now things have changed somewhat and we usually do at least one food fair, agricultural show or festival every weekend. We are passionate about what we do and love talking about it, so events like these are the perfect opportunity to get our name out there and for people to try our award winning ‘fork to farm’ products.

We breed Gloucester Old Spot pigs and Southdown sheep on our 17 hectare farm near Dorking. We only have one recipe at the farm, and that’s to produce great food using high-quality ingredients. Since I’ve embraced country life we’ve built a food production unit on site, which is where we produce all our products from our free-range meat, which means we know the provenance of all our key ingredients.

We usually start prepping for a weekend event on Thursday, cutting bacon, marinading the sweet chilli ribs and cooking sausage rolls or quiches. We put a lot of thought into the ingredients we use, as we want to bring out the flavour and make it the best it can be. For example, we naturally cure our ham on the farm for 12 days and when it’s ready, we cook it in cider from the farm, a spoon of honey from our bees and add herbs grown in our vegetable garden. It’s great to be using all my culinary skills again, as I originally trained as a chef and started my career working in catering over 25 years ago. I love developing new products in the kitchen and we’ve come up with some cracking recipes, including our Hill House sausage rolls, liver and bacon pâté and you can’t beat one of our homemade quiches.

Saturday’s are always an early start as we have to travel to the event, set up and prep before everything is opened up to the public. We transport everything around in our white chiller van and even my mother, who’s in her 70s enjoys driving it round. Our business really is a family affair!

I love doing events, they are a really important part of our business. Depending where the event is I often go with my eldest son, Dylan, who’s 14, as he loves to help out. If we’re not at an event he spends time with me working on the farm, tending to the animals or crafting things in the workshop, but when it comes to the kitchen his forte is in product consumption rather than creation!

After the show it’s back home to the farm where my parents live to drop everything off, and then back to our family home, which is five miles down the road. We usually have a barbecue on Saturday and cook whatever we haven’t sold, although more often than not we’ve sold out, so it’s fish and chips for dinner.

I love working for myself, but one thing I have found is that I could easily work 24/7 so on Sunday’s I make a conscious effort to take time off and spend it with my family. We often walk our border terrier, Ace, around Denbies and Box Hill, we’re so lucky to have such amazing countryside on our doorstep.

As well as a passion for farming and food, I also love vintage vehicles, so if there’s a car show on we’ll be there! Goodwood is a family favourite and we all get dressed up for the Revival and Festival of Speed. In the winter, Sunday mornings are spent freezing on the sidelines of a rugby pitch, cheering on my younger son Evan. We’ve high hopes he’ll play for Wales, the ambition is there, but only time will tell if he’s got the talent. For now he’s pouring all his energy into playing for Dorking Colts.

In the evening we always have a family dinner; a barbecue in the summer or roast in the winter and then watch TV together, enjoying a film or devouring a box set. If I have a particularly busy week ahead I often do my paperwork on a Sunday evening.

It’s been six months since I swapped corporate life for the country and none of this would have been possible without the support of my family, particularly my wife and my parents, and also my friends. I love my new life, although it definitely hasn’t been without its challenges. I’m constantly learning and tweaking things, but that’s all part of the fun and I definitely won’t be swapping my farm overalls for my suit any time soon!

Hill House Farm, Missbrooks Green Road, Beare Green, Dorking, RH5 4QQ; 01306 264000; learnlandleisure.com

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