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Forty Farms

In 2020, I set out on a 12-month project to tell the story of Forty Farms, each one located somewhere in Cumbria. From Lake District hill farms to the Solway marshes, from commons sheep grazers to dairy ice cream makers, from sixth generation farming families to eager newcomers, each aspect of Cumbrian farming is, I hope, represented by these Forty Farms.

The idea for Forty Farms was devised by publisher and Lake District enthusiast, David Felton of Inspired by Lakeland. He approached me about creating the book together.

The project captures the widest experiences of farming in a region that is known, recognised and loved internationally. Coming from a farming background myself, I think I’m in a unique position to have honest conversations with those in the frontline of change and also to capture the character and landscape on my camera too. Working with David has enabled me to bring the whole concept of Forty Farms to life.

Forty Farms is an immersive and evocative exhibition of large-format photographs, supported by film, words, sound and crafted products from some of the featured farms, curated initially for the Gallery at Rheged in Cumbria. The exhibition is touring after Rheged, to the Windermere Jetty Museum (closed May 2023) and will open in its entirety at the Food Museum, Stowmarket, Suffolk in May 2024 until February 2025. At each venue we work to create a programme of talks and creative workshops, some of them delivered by farmers and all of them supporting the themes explored in Forty Farms.

You can check details and book events here.

A legacy of the whole project is a gorgeous hardback book, Forty Farms. With more than 340 pages of images and conversations, each conversation exploring aspects of change in the working landscape of Cumbria and each image capturing something of life on this land today. The book was published on Friday 16 September 2022 and launched at the opening of the exhibition.

You can buy the book in good bookshops or direct from me here.

The book and the exhibition are at the heart of Forty Farms but there’s lots more happening too – I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for this concept, for the images and, at the heart of it all, for the stories of Forty Farms.

My blog page will be kept up to date with talks and venues for the whole project.

As well as the “real” Gallery exhibition, there’s also a virtual Online Gallery, which includes exclusive images not in the book (as well as lots that are) and offers the chance to buy a range of formats and sizes for about 400 images as prints. Follow the link to find out more and for the full selection.

And there’s more print too with a Forty Farms Calendar and a selection of different greetings cards available from my own website shop and from other retailers throughout Cumbria.

None of this would be happening without the commitment and enthusiasm my publisher, Dave Felton, and the financial support of the Arts Council as well as five sponsors: Rathbone Brothers (wealth management), H&H Group, NFU (National Farmers Union), the University of Cumbria’s Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas and The Cumberland, the Carlisle-based mutual building society.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed – both David and I really appreciate it.

Finally, the touring exhibition of Forty Farms is now focused on venues outside of Cumbria. The aim is to reach and engage with those who are not so familiar with the farming way of life, especially in this amazing landscape. If you have any contacts – please get in touch.

We are opening at the Food Museum in Stowmarket, Suffolk for nine months in May 2024. More details will be posted here soon.