EDIARY 34. SEPT / OCT 2003. WHAT PEOPLE WANT
As I go round England, I meet a lot of people who would like to connect with farming and understand where their food comes from. They would prefer their meat to be produced without cruelty, their vegetables to be grown without chemicals, their planet to be preserved. They would prefer to feel some connection with the natural world.
They get very little reliable information on how this might be done. They are told by people with vested interests that it's impossible to feed everyone and nurture the planet.
Because most people have no direct connection with the land, they are easily fooled by advertisers. At farmers' markets, I find some outrageously false claims in amongst a lot of totally genuine farmers who offer exactly what the public are looking for, but often don't connect with a hungry public.
Eg. farmhouse cheese is booming. I find new and interesting local cheeses wherever I go and, wherever I go, people want more. Here is one I think is cashing in on that market: HORLICKS FARMS "Somerset Maid" who claim on the label that they have been making prize-winning cheddar for fifty years. I've no doubt they have. Whether they have been making it from their own milk, cutting the curd by hand, maturing it slowly, I doubt when I see that it is made by Dairy Gold in Lampeter.
It's quite a tasty cheese too. My point is that industrial cheesemakers think this market is worth cashing in on. It is worth pretending you are making a farmhouse cheese when you are not, because the public will go out of their way to pay more for it.
BRACKLEY FARMERS' MARKET. Quite a lively market, due to the Northamptonshire group, extending the range of farms right over to the Wash.
MANOR FARM, BOSTON, LINCS. Excellent vegetables and fruit.
ACORN HERD OF OXFORDSHIRE SANDY AND BLACK PIGS, HIMLEY FARM, MIDDLETON STONEY, OXON. with their own pork and smoked pork, sausages, bacon, ham, and fine pictures of their pigs, looking very free.
IXHILL FARM, OAKLEY, BUCKS. Farmer Cox with his own meat.
HOBBLEY BOTTOM GOATS CHEESE, HITCHIN, HERTS. www.down-earth.co.uk. Delicious, Dutch-style goat cheese.
GODWIN'S ICE CREAM, WESTON ON THE GREEN, OXON, Selling lots of cornets.
WYKEHAM PARK FARM SHOP, BANBURY, OXON, with their own beef and organic vegetables.
SCOTCH LODGE FARM SHOP, EARL'S BARTON, NORTHANTS, selling their own pies, but they stock everything.
PASTURES FARM SHOP, YARDLEY HASTINGS, NORTHANTS with therir own poultry.
FOWLER'S OF EARLSWOOD, WARWICKSHIRE with their lovely cheese.
....and more. When I don't list people it's likely to be because I couldn't see their name for the crouds or because I've mentioned them before.
Northants and Oxon are dry, dry, DRY. The fields look like Australia. The few animals are being fed next winter's hay. The trees are dying in the hedgerows.
PLAW HATCH FARM, ASHDOWN FOREST, E. SUSSEX
The spring has dried up and, for the first time in their lives, the cows are drinking mains water. They sniff at it first. In spite of this, the fields are green and the cows are grazing naturally. I would find it very hard to believe that this is not due to the dio-dynamic method of farming.
Here for Plaw Hatch and Tablehurst Community Farm's AGM. What do we want from a community farm? What have we (the shareholders) to offer to the debate on farming?
ASHDOWN FOREST LLAMA PARK www.llamapark.co.uk. A model llama and alpaca farm and shop. The clothes are not cheap but they ARE beautiful.
PAMPERED PIGS PARLOUR, TOLPUDDLE, DORSET.
"produced with care for people who care." They have a beef herd as well.
Milk from MANOR FARM, GODMANSTONE, DORSET www.manor-farm-organic.co.uk
Butter from COOMBE FARM, CREWKERNE, SOMERSET
Apple juice from BRIDGE FARM, E. CHINNOCK, YEOVIL, SOMERSET
KENNIFORD FARM SHOP, EXMOUTH, DEVON (ALSO AT CLYST ST. MARY)
The first farm shop I've found on a caravan site. They sell their own pork and bacon, free-range eggs and honey.
Also free-range chicken and duck from CREEDY CARVER, UPTON HELLIONS, CREDITON, DEVON www.creedycarver.co.uk.
Yoghurt from STAPLETON FARM, LANGTREE, TORRINGTON www.devonyogurt.co.uk "celebrating 25 years of yogurt making".
Organic vegetables and lamb from ROD AND BEN, BICKHAM FARM, KENN, EXETER. www.rodandbens.com
Apple juice from FOUR ELMS FRUIT FARM, SIDMOUTH, DEVON. Also their cider and lots more local cider.
OTTERTON MILL www.ottertonmill.com.
A delightful place.
Their own bakery using their own flour, selling thir own food in their own restaurant and courtyard. Very good.
Fruit juices from LUSCOMBE DRINKS, BUCKFASTLEIGH
Jams and chutneys from HIGHFIELD PRESERVES, TIVERTON, DEVON
Crisps from BURTS CRISPS, PARCEL SHED, KINGSBRIDGE, DEVON
Ice cream from ROCOMBE FARM ICE CREAM, TORQUAY
Beers from O'HANLON'S BREWERY, GT. BARTON FARM, WHIMPLE, DEVON
DARTS FARM SHOP, CLYST ST. GEORGE, TOPSHAM, DEVON
Enormous and getting bigger. They have the builders in, and are just about to become DARTS FARM VILLAGE
They sell their own squashes, spinach, beetroot, plants, and are home to
GREEN VALLEY CIDER AND APPLE JUICE
GERALD DAVID, WEST COUNTRY BUTCHERS, who are all over the West Country www.geralddavid.co.uk.
They also sell quite a lot of local produce (which I list elsewhere) and have a very interesting comments book. The overwhelming majority of those who record their impressions say that Dart's Farm is getting worse as it gets bigger. They complain about prices, poor service, being removed from the source of food. These opinions are interspersed, every page or so, with one that says "Rubbish. Dart's Farm is The Best". Big of them, in the circumstances, to keep the comments book going.
IS THIS WHAT PEOPLE WANT?
I was surprised to see how many people feel, as I do, that big is not beautiful.
POWDERHAM FOOD HALL, DAWLISH, DEVON
Powderham goes one step further along the road to poshness. Local firms make Powderham lines. These include:
Powderham Apple Juice by FOUR ELMS FRUIT FARM
Powderham Ale by O'HANLON'S BREWERY
Powderham Coulis by MARYSTOW PRESERVES
Powderham Cider by SHEPPEY'S
Powderham Preserves by HIGHFIELD PRESERVES
An in house bakery by RYDERS of DAWLISH
An in house butcher: STILLMANS www.stillmansbutchers.co.uk
Pies from ASTONS BAKERY
IS THIS WHAT PEOPLE WANT?
What I want is better represented by BRIMBLECOMBE'S CIDER, DUNSFORD, DEVON, www.brimblecombs.com
They claim to have been making cider at Farrant's Farm for over 450 years. The building and much of the machinery are still there and still used. The cider barn, built into the side of the hill, is unchanged. The apples (from their own orchards) are no longer milled in the stone mill, but they are still pressed, with straw, in the traditional press, looking remarkably nautical. The juice is still fermented in oak barrels. The chute for loading the barrels onto wagons is still in position. This was a bigger operation than just making cider for the farm. Bev Barter, who runs Brimblecombe's now, with her husband, Ron, thinks cider from here may have been exported from Exeter. Mr. Brimblecombe still comes back to help when the cider is being made. They plan an open day in early November when the public can watch, or even join in. (See the website) The Barters also have a herd of beef cattle. Their grazing is in conversion to organic. Their orchards have never been anything else.
ULLACOMBE FARM SHOP, BOVEY TRACEY, DEVON
My ideal farm shop.
Ullacombe is very much a working farm. The poultry house (on two levels) is beside the shop and the hens were industriously laying as I drove up. Later, they were let out and flowed up the steep green hill behind. The cows grazed beyond. The house is bordered by vegetables. There are free range dogs.
They sell their own cakes, free range eggs, cream, pies, aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, onions, beans, beets, apples, and local potatoes.
They also sell really local produce, and people were delivering it all the time:
Meat (organic beef and lamb) from LIZWELL FARM, WIDECOMBE, DEVON "Widecombe bred and fed."
Goats cheese from VULSCOMBE, CRUNYS MORCHARD, TIVERTON, DEVON
Cows cheese from SHARPHAM BRIE AND RUSTIC and DEVON BLUE, TRICKLEMOOR.
Apple juice from LUSCOMBE www.luscombe.co.uk
Mustards from HEAVEN SCENT HERBS, CHRISTOW, EXETER. www.heavenscentherbs.co.uk
Milk and yoghurt from RIVERFORD FARM, STAVERTON, TOTNES, DEVON. (committed to organic farming.)
Local trout caught to order: SPRINGFIELD TROUT FARM.
Charcoal from STOVER COUNTRY PARK www.devongovt.uk/dcs/stover.
I did go to Riverford (both shops) later but here is a good opportunity to quote some of the advertising on milk bottles:
RIVERFORD: "Milk from our own cows, grazing our own fields, packed fresh in our own dairy."
DUNS DAIRY, DREWSTAIGNTON:" Produced on our own farm, mainly from grass and grass sileage. We apply no herbicides or pesticides to our grazing land. We rely mainly on homeopathic remedies to maintain the health of our animals."
MANOR FARM, GODMANSTONE, DORSET: "A mixed organic farm on the Dorset Downs, where Will and Pam Best... have been producing milk since 1980. To learn more about our farming methods, please visit our website: www.manor-farm-organic.co.uk
Milk is not just "the white stuff" any more. You can say a lot on a milk bottle.
What do people want to know?
BOVEY TRACEY HANDLOOM WEAVERS, 1,STATION RD., BOVEY TRACEY, DEVON
The wool is spun and bought in Scotland but all the other processes are done before your eyes on equipment which was new half a century ago. Amazingly complicated and exciting tweeds are produced by Stuart Gregory. His wife, Elizebeth sells them in the shop next door
OTTERY ST. MARY FARMERS MARKET.
One of the less popular markets. I'm told Crediton is the good one.
BLACKLAKE FARM, SIDMOUTH, DEVON Organic rare breeds. Selling lovely woollen throws.
NORSWORTHY DAIRY GOATS CHEESE, GUNSTONE, CREDITON. Very good cheese from their own goats.
GITTISHAM DEVON REDS www.reddevonbeef.co.uk
OTTER VALE POULTRY, SPURTHAM FARM, UPOTTERY. Delicious chuicken sausages made from free range, gm-free chickens.
GARLONDHAYES FARM, CULLOMPTON, DEVON. Farmed venison.
TRACEY MILL TROUT FARM, HONITON. DEVON. Farmed trout and stone-ground flour.
FERMOYS GARDEN CENTRE, IPPLEPEN, DEVON "Fresh ideas; friendly advice; first choice for value."
A large and flourishing garden centre. One corner is devoted to a rather phoney farm shop. They do sell a few local products including meat from
DARTMOOR HAPPY HOGS, WHIDDON DOWN, OKEHAMPTON, DEVON.
HAWKRIDGE FARM DAIRY PRODUCE, COLDRIDGE, CREDITON, DEVON.
potatoes from WAYES BARTON FARM, IPPLEPEN.
RIVERFORD FARM SHOP STAVERTON, TOTNES, DEVON www.riverfordfarmshop.co.uk
Genuinely organic themselves and a centre for a committedly organic area.
As well as their own dairy produce and vegetables, they sell:
Salads from OLD CUMMING ORGANIC FARM, BUCKFASTLEIGH and more local and bio-dynamic salads.
Water from CLEARLY DEVON, MITCHELCOMBE FARM, DARTMOOR.
Several cheeses I've mentioned before and BLISSFUL BUFFALO, BELLAND FARM,TETCOTE, HOLESWORTHY, DEVON
A lot of dried goods from ESSENTIALS
Fairly traded tea and coffee, oil and cereal
They have their own (genuinely their own) butcher and baker and sell their own frozen meals.
These two (Fermoys and Riverford) are a contrast. From my point of view, Riverford are genuine, care for the environment and their animals and try to give a fair deal to their producers and customers; Fermoys are smart, hard-selling, flashy and there to make money. Someone else might see Riverford as a bunch of cranks fighting a losing battle, while Fermoys sell in the real world.
WHAT DO PEOPLE WANT? And what is the real world? Every one of us makes the world what it is and we change it, whether we are trying to or not. People who shop at Fermoys change the world just as much as\ people who shop at Riverford.
KINGSBRIDGE FARMERS' MARKET. DEVON
A thriving market enlivened by donkeys from SORLEY TUNNEL ORGANIC SHOP AND RIDING SCHOOL www.sorleytunnel.com, and on-the-spot apple pressing by
ORCHARD LINK, TOTNES, DEVON, an excellent institution who will press your apples in your orchard, sell your surplus at farmers' markets, organise cider-making workshops, and also sell you a bottle of freshly pressed apple juice for £1. Very good but since it is not pasteurised, it quickly becomes cider.
Also cheering to me, were some local gardening projects:
KINGSBRIDGE COMMUNITY GARDENS,
TRESILLIAN GARDEN PROJECT both selling plants
WILD ABOUT FLOWERS, HIGHER NORTON FARM, E. ALLINGTON, TOTNES, DEVON, selling native bulbs.
I tasted many ancient varietirs of W Country apple, some from stalls too small to have a name, but also fr5om
STOKELEY FARM SHOP, WILTON FARM, S. POOL, DEVON, who had vegetables, eggs and honey as well.
GARLANDVALE APPLE JUICE, KINGSBRIDGE, DEVON
LODISWELL CHEESE, THURLESTONE, DEVON. www.devonzone.com
There was plenty of really local meat including:
JILLY FARM FRESH MEAT, LOWER NORTON FARM, DARTMOUTH selling delicious burgers
WELL HUNG MEAT www.wellhungmeat.com
PHIL BOND, COLLATON DOWN FARM with lamb
Sevearl stalls had their own honey, including:
BIRDY'S DEVON HONEY www.birdysdevonhoney.co.uk
Also a colourful display from SOUTH DEVON CHILLI FARM www.sdcf.co.uk
RIVERFORD FARM SHOP, YEALMPTON.
This one, in KITLEY PYO, has a cafe, selling a complete Riverford breakfast: their own organic bacon, sausage, free range eggs, tomatoes.
Also a wealth of organic produce, both their own and local
There's also a vet in a portacabin in the grounds.
They sell plants too, including lemon trees.
HUMPHREY'S FARM SHOP, TREGONY, CORNWALL.
Their own potatoes, swedes, squash, carrots,apples.
Meat from PENVOSE FARM
Apple juice from CORNISH ORCHARDS WESTNORTH FARM, DULOE, CORNWALL
Jersey and organic milk, cream and butter from BARWICK HALL FARM, TREGONY, CORNWALL
Ice cream from HESLETT FARM CORNISH DAIRY
Farmhouse cheeses from MENALLACK FARM, TRAVERNA, LYNHER FARM.
Fish from CORNISH SMOKED FISH CO. CHARLESTOWN, CORNWALL.
I later went to MENALLACK FARM, which is very lovely and has a camp site, but not their own cows. Good cheese.
ROSKILLY'S, TREGELLAST BARTON, ST. KEVERNE, CORNWALL. www.roskilly.co.uk
There is much of interest: the product of more than one interesting mind. They have a herd of Jersey cows (You can watch them being milked every afternoon), an ice cream parlour, where you can see the ice cream being made as well as eat it, a fudge dairy, ditto, a cider barn, where their own apples are crushed and made into apple juice and cider, a shop where you can buy all their products including chocolates and furniture polish made from their own beeswax, an excellent cafe where you can eat local food outside or by the fire, play the piano, read the exhaustive library of Cornish folklore.
This is just the beginning. Roskillys are doing very inventive things with stone, wood and stained glass. There's a group of gypsy caravans, lived in, and a very original landscape. Taking a valley which was once a withywood used by fishermen for making crab pots, an unsung genius has created a series of ponds and walks inspired by the Cornish landscape, which inspired so many nineteenth century gardeners. This is a new one.
Roskilly's is a good day out and, apart from the produce, it's all free.
Roskilly's is popular, and so it should be. They have much to offer. I find it cheering that people want the things they have to offer. They are not, traditionally, the things people went to Cornwall for (except the cream teas). So the answer to "What do people want?" is not a simple one.
Different people want different things.
The South West is full of interesting people farming in interesting ways.
It's good to see you all.