Val was farming in the South West of England for more than 30 years.
She worked in community development and as a volunteer in the past. Val learnt farming and livestock keeping as a child/teen/young adult from spending time helping on farms and keeping her own rabbits, hens and ducks. Val’s grandfather grew everything and his family were smallholders.
Val lives in Cornwall with her husband and family, sheep, goats, chickens and dogs. She is qualified to degree level in Landscape Conservation and Countryside Management, and a qualified trainer and permaculture teacher.
Before starting her current business, Val ran the award winning sheep wool insulation business The Woolly Shepherd which she set up in 2005.
The unique nature of this permaculture based business that also provided services for local community, led to Devon Environmental Business Initiative Award in 2009 (as an overall winner 2009 and a winner in Environmental Goods and Services nomination).
Today Val runs an eco B&B in shepherd’s huts business, Berry Lane Cottage, and a new venture It’s Baaath Time goats milk soaps, She also offers permaculture project management consultancy, courses and volunteering opportunities. Berry Lane Cottage is part of the Permaculture Association LAND Centre Network.
With family background in farming and smallholding, Val sees permaculture as a pragmatic approach that ‘sums up common sense’, echoing the lifestyle and farming practices she experienced as a young person.
Having permaculture as an inherent part of her life, Val established her businesses on the principles of earth care, fair trade to/with local producers and local people, fair share, people care and non-exploitation.
Admitting the difficulty of securing funding for permaculture start-ups, Val suggests, from her own experience, that access to finance might be easier if working as a constituted group/community enterprise; you might also consider match funding opportunities and philanthropic support.
Getting external funding in 2008 was significant for Val’s business growth helping to purchase some essential machinery.
Talking about the components of permaculture business success, Val emphasises the importance of knowledge and learning saying: “You’ve got to know your subject very well,” and “Learn as many skills as possible; the time you invest in learning will reap the rewards in the end.”
Being professional and a business minded person will help your permaculture enterprise to prosper.