Back in February Jane Brand’s world was shattered. Grant, her husband of 20 years, father to her children and business partner at East Fortune Farm took his own life. There were no warning signs, nothing to alert Jane or the wider family that Grant was struggling with his mental health. Overnight, Jane found herself a widow, a single parent and running the family business alongside her father-in-law who had all but retired from the farm. The shock of Grant’s death that February night has been incredibly hard for the family and the wider community to come to terms with.
We caught up with Jane to find out how the family have managed to keep their farm, farm shop and caravan parks going over the last six months and hear about their plans for the future.
Dealing with the agony of Grant’s loss during lockdown was unbearable. The chaos of COVID-19 added a heightened sense of isolation, compounded by everyone’s anxieties around the pandemic and the future in general. Six months on, we try to take every day as it comes and try not to think too far ahead. Accepting that I will never know the answers to my questions really is the hardest part. The determination from the whole team to continue developing what Grant spent 20 years building is what motivates me to get out of bed every morning. The boys are getting back to their daily farm duties with Ritchie making up the pig feed and Robert gathering the eggs. A new path lies ahead of them now but they are a tremendous support to me as we reshape our future together.
How is it living and working on East Fortune Farm?
Living on a farm is both wonderful and relentless. Memories of Grant are everywhere; a sound can suddenly take me back to a moment in time and a view of a hi-vis jacket in the lambing shed often makes me double take. The hardest part is having nobody to share concerns with at night, or to get reassurance that we’re doing the right thing. The business has grown so much over the last 18 months – we’ve increased our produce ranges, taken the farm shop online and continued our commitment to local deliveries. With this, our team has grown and we’re navigating our way through the increased admin this brings! Improvements to the way the farm works are ongoing, helping to reduce manual labour and upgrading facilities to prevent challenging weather conditions which often test the team, as they did Grant.
How have the family dynamics changed?
Since losing Grant, family dynamics have altered as we all adapt to life without him, whilst trying to understand what caused his worries. It is very painful for the whole family. Grandpa and I will sometimes grab 15 minutes at night watching the sunset over the sheep fields chatting about our day and how we move forward. Grant’s brother Jamie, a music teacher, is more involved than ever with the farm and we’re constantly in touch about details for butchers, meat weights and deliveries. He has been a pillar of strength as I navigate my way forward.
What does the future look like for the Brand family?
We have decided to continue to grow the business to ensure a solid future for the farm and the boys. Even if farming is not their chosen path, the diverse business we now operate will open many doors for them. In spring we recruited a farm manager and together we agreed to continue the farming calendar as normal. Our Hampshire Down lambing will go ahead in December and a new Lleyn tup is on the way to assist East Fortune Bute with the tupping season in October ahead of spring lambing next year. The new team at the farm have big boots to fill that’s for sure, but they are very much part of the family and developing the business together is our main focus. The business is also so much part of the community now, from the team themselves to customers, suppliers and advisors. Despite the pain, I feel a great sense of achievement in what we have created since opening our first little caravan park back in 2002, though I never anticipated doing any of it without Grant.