The Norton family have farmed at Church Farm, Frettenham, since 1946, when the farm and surrounding land was bought by Jack Norton. Born in Norfolk, Jack started his farming life by carrying out contracting work at Tasburgh. This enabled him to earn enough money to move to his first farm, a small 60 acre area at Morley St Peter near Wymondham.
In 1946, Jack Norton, his wife Ida and four children, Bob, Peter, Janet and Pat moved to Church Farm, Frettenham, which is still farmed by the Norton family today. They arrived with fewer than 10 dairy Shorthorn cows and grew wheat, barley, sugar beet and oats. In addition to this the farm raised pigs and poultry, including turkeys for the Christmas table. In the years that followed, the farm grew a range of crops including potatoes, runner beans, Dutch white cabbage, fodder beet, peas, durum wheat and rye and today grows wheat, barley, sugar beet, fodder maize and energy crops for biodigesters.
Over the years the farm has increased in size with Glebe Farm being purchased in 1958 and Beck Farm being purchased in 1963. Today the farm covers an area of about 360 acres, roughly split into two blocks – one north of Frettenham village around Church Farm and St Swithin’s Church, and one south of the village.
Sadly, Jack’s wife Ida passed away in 1946 shortly after arriving at Church Farm and Jack later married Olive and they had a son, Phillip, who is still an active member of the farm today. Jack Norton ran the farm until he passed away in 1975 and two of his sons, Bob and Phillip, took over. By 1977, Bob’s son David returned to the farm from agricultural college to milk a herd of around 50 Friesian dairy cows. It was at this time that the farm stopped raising pigs and invested in a new milking parlour, allowing the dairy herd to increase to 65 cows. In 1985 the dairy parlour was further updated and by 1993 the dairy herd comprised of over 75 cows. In 2003 the decision was made to begin the transition from Friesian dairy cows to Brown Swiss – a hardier, dual purpose breed that produces better milk as well as quality beef.
In 2007, with milk prices at an all-time low, the farm decided to begin processing its own milk and today we pasteurise around 160’000 litres on site per year and boast a fantastic selection of Norfolk milk, cream, butter, cheese and yoghurt.
In 2011, we invested in a state-of-the-art milking robot to replace the manual milking parlour that was already in place. The robot runs 24/7, allowing the cows to choose when they want to be milked. The cows enter the robot one at a time and a laser-guided robotic arm locates the teats and begins milking.
Bob sadly passed away in 2003, but his son David and brother Philip proudly carry on the family farming tradition, running the farm in partnership with their wives Ruth and Rona and the invaluable support of the rest of the family and staff.