The Rose family's farming story begins in the 1870s with Joseph Taylor Rose, a shepherd of Swinefleet, on the opposite side to the river Ouse to us today. His son Richard Rose became a slaughterman, working for the renowned J. W. Gould of Hull. He set up his own farm, Ings Farm, on the very banks of the river Hull in partnership with a man known as 'Boss' - Thomas Smedley. Unfortunately, times were hard and they had to downsize to the neighbouring Gibraltar Farm in 1926 when 'Boss' was declared bankrupt.
Paul with the first cow, Sprite Aughton Ruddings, 1996
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The herd was entirely grassfed from the start, but when Rob heard Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm on the radio talking about his pioneering grazing system, he couldn't wait to try it and Paul agreed. It's thought that Rosewood was the first farm in the UK to implement this system on a commercial basis. It worked so well with the cattle that it was tried with the sheep, and we found that our tough Welsh sheep the Kerry Hills adapted to it extremely well too, making eco-friendly beef and lamb/mutton possible. The main idea is that the herd is moved onto fresh grass every single day, which mimics the action of the great wild herds of buffalo etc., giving the grass time to recover before being grazed again. This encourages the grass to grow deep roots, making it much more resistant to weather extremes. It also keeps the pasture clean of parasites since the herd is constantly leaving them behind, and makes very efficient use of small land areas. All this means our grass is not stressed and requires no 'help' from us in the form of fertiliser or cultivation, making our carbon footprint pretty tiny compared to other livestock businesses.
Sustainability - both ecologically and economically, is our driving force. We want to produce food that is eco friendly, affordable, tasty and healthy. Our grazing system, tough sheep and tiny cows enable us to do that!
Determined to seek new markets and new, more sustainable methods, Robert and Paul struck out on their own, taking the radical step of pinning their hopes on the smallest native cattle breed - the Irish Dexter. The herd was started in 1996 with 'Foulrice Sprite' and although it's true that the conventional farming market has no place for Dexters, these tiny cattle offered many benefits to fledgling farmers taking on the roughest grazing that needed the most delicate touch, since most of our land is internationally recognised (RAMSAR) wetland and/or SSSI (site of special scientific interest).
Richard continued to work as a slaughterman while his son Frank and 'Boss' ran the farm, delivering eggs and milk to Hull via horse and cart for the next 40 years. The business became F. Rose & Sons to include Frank's children, but it was not to last as both Ings and Gibraltar Farm were sold by the landlords to make way for what is now the Kingswood Shopping Centre in Hull! This prompted the move to our current area near Aughton, and the farm at Aughton Ruddings Grange was the home of Robert and Paul's goats and poultry, which gave them their own start in farming.
Richard Rose (centre left)