Monday, 21 November 2016

'You reap what you sow' - the creed of Silsden farmer

 Maurice Jackson (1930-2016)

The death occurred on November 9th of Maurice Jackson, of Airedale House, one of the district's best-known agricultural figures, whose family have been farming in Silsden since the 17th Century. He was 86. Maurice and his wife, Ruth, are pictured above at Airedale House in 2013 when I interviewed and photographed them for a series on Silsden’s farming families. As well as dairy and sheep farming, Maurice was renowned in the poultry-show world, continuing a reputation built up by three previous generations of Jacksons from High Green Farm in Silsden. His father, Sam, was credited with introducing to the area the Marans breed, of which Maurice had been a post-war mainstay. It was only in 2012 that he and Ruth gave up running their own flock.
Above: Low Woodside Farm. Maurice was born at a cottage at High Swartha Farm, the only son of Sam and Edith Jackson (née Bell), who moved to Low Woodside in 1938. Sam supplied milk to Driver's dairy in St John Street for ice-cream manufacture and for sale at the firm's Milk Bar in Kirkgate. In 1956 Maurice took on neighbouring Airedale House Farm, where he and Ruth moved after their marriage in 1959. In 1962, Maurice acquired nearby Woodside. His father died aged 61 in 1968, leaving Maurice with Low Woodside to run alongside Airedale House and Woodside. Low Woodside expanded substantially but ill-health in 1991 curtailed Maurice’s farming activities and finally heart surgery in 2001 brought his full-time involvement but not his interest to a close.
Above: a view from the canal towards Airedale House and Woodside. Cowling Bridge across the canal leads to Low Woodside, which is to the right out of the picture, and gives access to the family's fields between the canal and the river.
Above: continued expansion at Low Woodside. After more than 300 years, the Jackson farming line continues to flourish. Maurice and Ruth’s son, also called Maurice, took over at Low Woodside, where he and his wife, Heather, have invested heavily in the latest dairying systems and techniques and where their son, Jonathan, is an integral part of the business. The milk round Maurice senior bought from John B Wade in 1982 continues to operate from Low Woodside Farm.
Above: flooded fields in November 2015. Airedale House has commanding views down the valley towards Keighley. Maurice and Ruth's daughter, Judith, and her husband, David Isherwood, farm at nearby Lane Bridge with their son, Joshua, principally supplying beef and lamb to the family’s butcher’s shop in Kirkgate, Silsden. They have invested significantly at Airedale House Farm in new livestock buildings and in developing a pedigree Airedale Angus herd.
Above: Airedale House in the snow in January 2010. Maurice senior told me in 2013: “If I was a young man now, I would be taking the same route as my son and daughter and their families. The biggest problem for farmers is marketing and being told what we are going to get for our produce. The supermarkets have become too powerful and it is a continual challenge to thrive but as in all things you reap what you sow.”