In September 2016 Cara moved from London to John O’Groats in Caithness to run Puffin Croft. Cara had over 20 years of nannying experience in London, but a random advert caught the eye of her sister, and just 10 weeks later, she was moving over 700 miles north to run a croft and petting farm with over 50 animals, a farmhouse, shop and on-site bakery to manage and a veg box delivery scheme to run!
In 2018 Cara was the focus of an episode of ‘Starting Up, Starting Over’ and you can watch the documentary online, it’s a really good watch! The filming process was intense, with the crew recording Cara’s every move and conversation periodically over every stage, capturing hundreds of hours of footage – however, the programme only lasts 43 minutes so the editing process must have been arduous!
While she enjoyed the filming process, on the whole, Cara who is a self-confessed introvert and found some of the filming days challenging especially when she was doing something new for the first time and the cameras were capturing her initial reactions. However, off the back of the documentary Puffin Croft (and Cara) have had lots of interest and well-wishes from viewers worldwide, as the documentary has been screened in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia, as well as the UK!
Running Puffin Croft is definitely not a 9-5 job. There’s no option to ignore the daily tasks around the croft. In bad weather, there’s no choice but to brave the elements in order to keep the animals fed, watered and comfortable. And there are definitely a lot of animals to take care of on Puffin Croft, at the time of my visit in January 2018 there were:
- Mr Bingley, the pot-bellied boar
- Dotty and Dolly – Kune Kune pigs (translated as ‘big and round’ in Maori)
- Rose and Thistle who are micropigs
- Jack and Jenny the gorgeous donkeys
- Poppy and Buttercup the sheep (who had the company of two visiting sheep when I was there)
- 8 goats in the form of Bo, Beans and Willow who are two Anglo-Nubian goats, and 6 Pygmy goats – Henry, Eli, Haggis, Flower and Fawn
- 7 rabbits – Mr Max Black, Bunny Blue Eyes, Attila the Bun (my personal favourite name), Bertha, Velveteen, Snowball and Ginger
- 2 geese, 5 ducks, hens and Roosevelt the Rooster
- And finally Dalmatian pup Measles (again another great name!) and cats Pyrewacket and Capability
Since my visit, two additional goats (Chickpea and Cauliflower) have recently arrived at Puffin Croft, and Jenny the donkey is pregnant so a foal will be arriving later on in the Spring!
As well as the day-to-day work of caring for the animals, Cara also does ongoing work to improve the living conditions of the animals and also has willing helpers. A local junior WI group built an amazing ‘gym’ for the goats, and WWOFERS can come and volunteer time on the croft in return for free accommodation – tasks include helping to prepare food items in the bakery, painting, and tidying the croft.
Cara also runs a croft farm shop on the site, which as well as produce, contains homemade soaps and other products, and also runs a local produce delivery box scheme in Caithness.
She sources the produce from her own baking and crops, other local growers and farmers, and the local wholesaler to give a bit of variety (unfortunately the north of Scotland does not have the climate to grow avocados and lemons!). We love our weekly deliveries and buying local produce wherever possible, we are particular fans of the eggs which are local Caithness eggs, and also Cara’s homemade scones and pies (though we don’t treat ourselves too often on account of trying to reduce our waistlines!) which are popular items throughout the county!
It’s an ongoing exercise to think of ways in which to develop Puffin Croft and how to think of new initiatives and products throughout the year. Cara has been on a huge learning curve in becoming a farmer, and all that entails in terms of financial management, marketing, taking care of the animals and managing her time. Some months can be extremely financially challenging if any of the animals fall ill and need the attention of a vet.
We were really inspired after seeing the documentary, meeting Cara on the croft and becoming one of her regular customers, we think she is amazing for following her dream of working with animals and loved our chat with her in her kitchen (complete with brilliant animal-themed mugs!)
There are loads of ways that you can get involved with Puffin Croft, whether you live in Caithness or further afield – see the Puffin Croft website for more details.