A FARM with a difference situated in a hidden valley in the Quantock hills was the subject of recent episode of BBC's Countryfile.

Stream Farm, which is based near Broomfield, sells a wide variety of products including organic beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs, apple juice and sheepskins as well as rainbow trout, still and sparkling water and raw honey.

They deliver for free in the Taunton and Bridgwater area.

James and Henrietta Odgers bought the farm 17 years ago, with the vision to have as many families as possible earning a sustainable livelihood from small-scale farming businesses, complementing each other and selling under a common brand.

Mr Odgers said: "We were excited to have the camera crew from the BBC visit on a gloriously sunny day and interview with our current crop of share farmers about where they were from, what they were up to, and what they planned to do after two years of learning how to run one of the businesses here.

"Our hope is that through this model Stream Farm is able to show that the British countryside is far better served by large numbers of small farms or farming businesses selling their produce directly to those who are going to eat it rather than by just a few huge farms selling to the supermarkets which, in our view, have done more damage to rural communities than anything else over the last 20 years."

The Countryfile programme aired on Sunday, March 17 and is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer until Monday, April 15.

Mr Odgers hopes that other farmers will see the episode and be inspired by the innovative approach to agriculture.

"We had no farming experience or family background in farming when we began 17 years ago – just a lot of enthusiasm and, perhaps, an outsider’s view of the industry," Mr Odgers said.

"Since the episode first aired we have been contacted by five farmers or land owners who are interested in the model."

Charlotte Caldwell, who runs the eggs and spring water businesses at Stream Farm said: "I grew up watching Matt Baker on Blue Peter.

"Imagine what fun it was to be interviewed by him about what we are doing here. My husband and I want to farm when we leave Stream Farm and there was no other practical way that we could possibly have learned how to do so except as share farmers here.

"There is a tremendous sense of community, and it is so easy to see how communities could begin to be restored if opportunities of this sort spread across the country."

Each share farmer at Stream Farm is self-employed, taking full responsibility for the day-to-day management of their business from the day they take it on.

Their livelihood comes from a share of the gross income of the business, and they put in the labour, while the farm takes the remaining income to cover the daily running costs and capital equipment.

The share farmers also cooperate together to help out when any of the respective businesses needs more than one or two pairs of hands, such as at apple-picking, barn-cleaning in the winter, and for large orders.

"We believe that self-employment provides more dignity and a greater sense of self-worth and significance than being paid a wage by a company that is often distantly run and uninvolved with the well-being of its individual employees," Mr Odgers said.

"We have been much influenced by Muhammad Yunus who started the largest micro-finance business, Grameen Bank, in Bangladesh.

"He wrote: ‘If labour had access to capital…wage employment would only come into the picture as an alternative to self-employment. The more self-employment became attractive…the more difficult it would be to attract people for wage jobs.’"

Share farmers have come and gone over the years from Stream Farm – more than 25 of them – many to continue farming enterprises elsewhere, others to pursue self-employment opportunities down other routes, and some to go abroad to assist subsistence farmers in developing countries such as Zimbabwe, India, Vietnam and South Africa.