Here’s another in my Jobs of the Wild series offering information for young people and job seekers on working outdoors, in adventure or with animals. If you want to know how to get a job like this check Jobs of the Wild regularly for new posts.
Today the fantastic Farmer Nick from Coombe Mill Holidays shares his experiences on setting up and running hospitality and holiday accommodation on a working farm in Cornwall.
Coombe Mill Holidays Limited
Nick and his wife Fiona set up Coombe Mill Holidays in 2002 and after years of hard work and long hours they have created a thriving and popular holiday business on their 30-acre farm near Polzeath in Cornwall, UK. The business, 5 cottages and 7 lodges, is thoroughly geared towards providing holidays for families with babies and small children to tweens as well as Grandparents and of course the all -important parents and carers, perfect for wild kids everywhere!
Coombe Mill has deer, ponies, rabbits, chickens, sheep, goats and pigs and all visitors can join daily tractor rides to feed the animals, particularly popular in Spring when the lambs and kids are at their cutest, and Autumn for the piglets. There are craft sessions and a natural play area as well as a crazy golf and BBQs.
With so much on offer, Kids of the Wild was keen to find out how to go about setting up a farm-based holiday business. Here’s Farmer Nick to help out: –
Director, Company Secretary and Farmer: I’m probably best known as ‘Farmer Nick’ and have too many job titles but essentially they include the above.
Now this is a varied one. Essentially my job includes caring for the many animals, running the morning tractor rides for children and parents on holiday to feed the animals with me, doing the DIY jobs that crop up, like mending farm fences or garden benches and building new things like the crazy golf course. Then there are the emergency fix/replace jobs when something breaks in a property where holiday guests are staying.
I avoid all the booking, marketing, managing the cleaners and changeover with the guests who Fiona sorts but I do take responsibility for our banking and finances.
Our official income is very low as we invest profits back in Coombe Mill to develop our farm holidays, but since Fiona and I are the directors of the company you could say we are investing back in our future.
- I’d say this is a job that requires a good business mind
- Great communication skills
- Experience in farming
- A practical approach to DIY
The skill set needed is very wide due to the small size of the business and the fact it is only myself and Fiona sharing all the jobs between us.
It is a real ‘ Jack of all trades’ type of job.
Patience, charm and wit are needed for the farm rides to share just enough information with the holiday guests that keep both children and adults informed and enjoying the experience.
A creative mind for problem solving is helpful and being able to think things through quickly when problems arise as well as an analytical mind for the finance.
I think you need to be a little bit of a dreamer too in order to set a vision for the future but also be a realist to make your dreams happen!
My training has really been on the job.
Fiona and I came from a very different world of corporate sales and marketing and this didn’t translate at all for Coombe Mill. Neither of us knew anything about the hospitality business or farming when we took over. I wouldn’t say this was ideal and we have made mistakes along the way. However 16 years later and I’d now say we are pretty confident in what we do.
Top Tips for Interview
I always look for a good honest work ethic.
I have had people work with me part-time on the farm in the past and we take on work experience students from the local secondary school where our kids go.
Punctuality is important, a presentable appearance and for students, they need to be able ring up and enquire for themselves (and not via their parents) as this suggests they have the confidence to interact appropriately with our holiday makers.
Top Tips for Doing the Job
Don’t try to do too much in a day, you have to be realistic when the ‘to do list’ is never-ending and prioritise.
- My job is very varied
- I get to work in beautiful surroundings
- I meet people at their happiest enjoying a holiday
- I’m home-based if my children need me
- (Being able to time off for a round of golf, which I love, in the middle of most people’s working day when it suits me!)
You never leave work behind; we live here at Coombe Mill and are on call 24/7 if the guests need us for anything or an animal is poorly.
Going on a family holiday has been very difficult to organise with farm cover too. This is however becoming easier as our own children are now able to cover for us for a few days in their school and college holidays and over weekends. Full family holidays are harder so we tend to take a few children at a time.
My day starts around 7 am and finishes when it gets dark.
Travel tends to be local to Cornwall for purchasing new things for the farm and properties, however sometimes I have to go further for new livestock.
Anything Else to Consider?
Health and Safety and Insurance cover are important considerations for a holiday business, especially one where we allow hands on experiences for children with the animals.
Why I Love the Job
I love the variety, fresh air, flexible working and being my own boss.
Read more about Coombe Mill Farm
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