Journey into Farming

‘Man of many parts’ John Carter pens book on his life down on the farm and in the wider community.

One of East Devon’s best-known farmers, who was introduced to the countryside after being evacuated from London during the war, has written a book about his life on the farm and beyond.

John Carter, who has farmed in and around Ottery St Mary and the Blackdown Hills for more than 40 years, has put pen to paper now that he is partly retired. Journey into Farming charts John and his wife Dawn’s journey together, starting out as penniless farm workers in the 1950s and their moves, from farm to farm, with three children - as well as their community interests.

In the 1960s and 70s, they became pioneers of the outside pig system and the book goes on to describe their contribution to agriculture and the wider community. It embraces their passion for the countryside, their livestock and concern for the people who worked with them to build a challenging farming enterprise.

Above all, it emphasises their love of the land and the strength of family life on a farm - as well as working and struggling with nature.

Mr Carter, who has farmed most prominently at Lashbrook Farm, Talaton, famed for its Lashbrook Pork, is a shepherd and arable farmer, a contributor to the understanding of management in agriculture and was a magistrate for 30 years. He was a pioneer of farmers selling direct to the public and farmers’ markets, and keenly supported the setting up of one of the first community shops.

The foreword of the 480 page book has been written by Emeritus Professor Anthony Giles OBE and Professor Malcolm Stansfield MBE. They say of the former evacuee: “The progress of his working life from farm worker to pioneering and land owning farmer, and farm-shop keeper, needs no elaboration here: his own insightful and detailed text does that for us. It has been written, as befits the magistrate and poet that he is, both sensitively and objectively.

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“With the unfailing support of his wife, Dawn, John Carter is, indeed, a man of many parts, reflected in these pages.

“We recommend them, unreservedly, to anyone in the farming industry – wherever they happen to be on its ladder – as well as to the general reader whose appetite, whetted, perhaps, by various forms of the media, may now be looking for something more intimate and lasting.”

Journey into Farming reveals Mr Carter “left school with little distinction, except a cauliflower ear gained on the rugby field”.

His father found him a five year apprenticeship with a printer, expecting it to teach him a trade.

The apprenticeship ended when he was 21 and, by then, he says “my brain started to develop and my body stopped growing”.

He would become a farm worker.

He wrote: “I would eventually move away from my loving family and travel to different farms to gain more experience with my pretty wife, Dawn, and our family of three young children.

“It may have been a hard road to tread on �10 a week, with the thought of farming on our own ever further away, but it was a happy, humorous one amongst farms and animals in the middle of nature and that was all we ever asked for and expected.”

Journey into Farming features 80 photographs, 50 of them in colour, and is published by Smokey House Publications. It is available priced �18.50 from Curious Otter, Ottery St Mayr, The bookshop, Bridport, and Wellington Bookshop. Signed copies are available by post for �20 - Smokey House Publications, Yarcombe, Devon EX14 9AD.