Arthur Hollins was born on the 20th May 1915 to Lillian and Alfred Hollins at Fordhall Farm.
Alfred was the tenant farmer at Fordhall Farm. According to Arthur, “My grandfather farmed the traditional mixed farming four course system on the 150 acres here at Fordhall, carrying 35 shorthorns, 45 spring lambing sheep and four breeding sows. The crop rotation system seemed to be unchangeable, maintaining a good state of fertility with all the animal residues returned to the soil and the clover ley giving humus when ploughed in from its large root formation. The First World War brought the farming community a false prosperity with a large increase in the use of fertilisers to produce extra food at home. This happened at Fordhall, unbalancing the farm. Each field had sandy hills up to 1 in 12. A reduction in the animal population and the vast increase in fertilisers started a downward trend in soil fertility which my father made no attempt to check because the fertilisers continued to produce a good yield. When the pendulum swung and hard times came in the twenties and early thirties, there were financial difficulties with fertiliser firms; then a gradual restriction in everything that aided soil fertility. In these sandy, sloping fields, which were bare during the winter, soil bacteria soon began to die away. The slopes became thinner and sandier and the best soil was washed to the bottom of the field.” (Quoted from ‘My Farming System, 1968’ written by Arthur Hollins.)
Alfred suddenly died on 29th June 1928 at the age of 38 years. Arthur became the tenant farmer at the very young age of 13 years and 1 month. Arthur struggled on with the mixed farm in partnership with his mother for many years. They kept on the herd of 39 commercial dairy Shorthorns as well sheep and the odd pig. They also grew oats, barley, kale, savoy cabbage, potatoes, swedes, mangolds, parsnips, carrots, oats and beans. Lillian made and sold Cheshire cheese and cream cheese at local markets, they were displayed on rush mats decorated with sage and rhubarb leaves.
Arthur found the expensive artificial fertilisers his father had previously used on the farm were not giving satisfactory results, so he studied various farming techniques. He started to grow mushrooms commercially, finding they not only provided a much-needed source of income, but also large quantities of spent compost, which helped to improve the condition of Fordhall’s soil. He experimented with mixtures of hardy greens, poultry, sheep and fish manure and over the years he developed his own ‘organic’ farming system. Arthur goes into much more detail about this in his book: The Farmer, the Plough & the Devil’ Ellingham Press 1984
To read more about how Arthur and May met click here