Interesting Facts

To give you a feel of what Sunnyfields is and does and the people behind it, we have tried below to give you a brief resume of our first 24 years of Sunnyfields.

The Sunnyfields Name

The name Sunnyfields was used because it was the name of a cottage on the farm where the farming side of Sunnyfields began in 1986. The cottage was knocked down because of structural problems and was replaced. We still have the original name plate from the cottage.

Iain and Louise in 1990

Ian and Louise Nelson moved to Jacobs Farm the home of Sunnyfields in 1990 and brought with them a business they had started on their return from 2 years in Malawi under the auspices of Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO).

No family farming backgrounds

Ian and Louise who started the Sunnyfields we see today did not have family farming backgrounds and the start up capital for the business was their £1,000 re-settlement grants from VSO.

Ian hails from the Northwest

Ian hails from the Northwest. A Lancastrian who gained an interest in food and farming from the fact that they produced a lot of food in the garden at home and with the encouragement of his grandad, Ian started growing food from the age of 5. In addition Ian spent many weekends and holidays in the Peak District, The Lakes and Snowdonia where he gained an appreciation of our great countryside and the pleasures of working outside in all weathers.

Ian’s interests

Ian’s interests past and present include playing and watching most sports especially swimming and running (was once a sub 3 hour marathon runner) music listening – all sorts, moutaineering, walking, watersports, bird watching, current affairs and of course food – growing, cooking and eating it. Ian studied Commercial Horticulture at Writtle Agricultural College in Essex.

Louise was born in Northampton

Louise was born in Northampton and then moved when she was young to Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire. Louise like Ian does not come from a farming background, her dad was a research engineer in the telecommunications sector which is probably where Louise gained her science and maths passions.

Louise’s interests

Louise’s interests past and present include playing the clarinet and guitar, walking, swimming, tennis, reading, bird watching and travelling. Louise went to Cambridge University and read Natural Sciences followed by a PGCE also at Cambridge. Louise and Ian have 2 children, Emma and Tom who have now both left home. Emma studied Management at Manchester University and now works for Proctor and Gamble and Tom is in his final year at Warwick University reading Management also. Both Emma and Tom have been very involved in the growth of Sunnyfields.

How Ian and Louise Met

Ian and Louise met while on VSO in Malawi, Central Africa. In Malawi Louise worked as a Secondary School teacher teaching general science and maths. Ian was a Horticultural Development Officer for the Malawi Government working in villages, hospital and schools as a horticultural advisor. On their return to the UK in 1988 they decided that they wanted to try and continue their VSO work by doing something which could have a lasting benefit. They went into food production ..and more

Starting a business in farming is a challenge

Starting in business especially farming with very little capital was always going to be a challenge. With help from family and friends, The Princes’ Trust, The Government Enterprise Allowance Scheme (Margaret Thatchers £35 per week), The Shell Live Wire Competition and Business Link and the landlords on one of our farms (The Barker-Mill Estate) we were up and running!

'The River Cafe' was one of our first customers

One of our first customers was The River Cafe – Rose Gray (sadly passed away) and Ruthie Rogers. We have supplied them for nearly 25 years and have seen some fantatstic people go through the ranks of The River Cafe kitchen many of whom we have supplied since – Sam and Sam from Moro, Theo Randall and Jamie Oliver. Sunnyfields has always supplied restaurants, hotels and cafes with fresh produce and in some cases meats. We supply many local hotels to Southampton such as Limewood, Lainston House, The Pig, The Mill at Gordeleton and many others.

Since 1990 more than £4 million has been invested in more land, buildings, infrastructure and equipment

When Ian and Louise arrived on Jacobs Farm it had very few buildings, hard standings and services. Since 1990 more than £4 million has been invested in more land, buildings, infrastructure and equipment.