Henry's Story

"My early years were spent here, on the farm at Bruern.  Life revolved around calving, haymaking and other tasks fit for a boy with too much energy, and these activities became as much an obsession for me as the Beatles’ back-catalogue. 

Henry Astor with his heritage grains

 I was never happier than when I was outdoors, building tree houses, shooting or biking around the lanes.

After school and a year away on a sheep station in Australia, I ended up at a university in the US studying anthropology.  On my return I went to Manchester to study for a Masters in Visual Anthropology.

My career has been varied, including work as a film producer, visual anthropologist and the Director of the American Hot Rod Foundation, all based in the US.  My heart, however, favours anthropology and my travels have taken me to the four corners of the planet, meeting different people and endeavouring to understand their cultures along the way. Stand-out experiences include walking through Cameroon on a photography assignment and fieldwork among the Warlpiri people in Australia.

The Road to Bruern

In 2012 I returned from the US with three young boys and my wife, Leslie. In 2017 my father handed over the reins of Bruern to me.  It was a time of turmoil in farming as Brexit sowed many uncertainties in the community. Trade barriers and a switch from the Basic Farm Payment to ELMS made things even more uncertain. Necessity, being the mother of invention, showed us the direction we needed to go. Diversity, I believed, was paramount to a healthy farming future business.

I bought a small English long horn herd; started breeding saddleback pigs; got 50 chickens; turned old grain silos into work spaces and accommodation; a grain dryer into studio spaces; bought a flour mill; a cold press to make sunflower oil; grew a variety of heritage grains; started a market garden; brewed our own beer; hosted the Milton Market; built a farm shop and built a café that now employs more than 20 people. I also set up the Cotswold Grain Network and helped found the North East Cotswold Farm Cluster, the largest such cluster in the UK with over 125 farms. All this in just two years. I'm excited to see what Bruern's future holds.

It’s been a challenging, at times uncertain but often an exhilarating journey. Yet one that has been immensely rewarding. Without the tireless work of Jane Potter and her team who run the Farm Shop & Café, Matt Childs who runs the arable side, and my wife Leslie who provides vision, stability and sanity, none of this would have been possible.

The fruits of our labours here at Bruern Farms are finally becoming apparent.  Our ultimate aim is to create a farming system that produces healthy food for a local population whilst increasing biodiversity and restoring a natural habitat.  This goes against the grain of 'conventional' (post-industrial) farming, but I strongly believe that if we don’t make changes now, we’ll run out of time to make any changes at all.

If you'd like to know more about my work here at Bruern, please get in touch."