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Hilary Peters' e-diary of real farm food 2002-2003
THE WORM WILL TURN
That is what Dot Boag says looking back over the bureaucratic bullying and intimidation that farmers have had to face over the last two years. (In East Anglia, they had swine fever immediately before foot and mouth and, from all accounts, the official response was as cruel and irrational, the restrictions as crippling)
This ediary is dedicated to Dot, who kept us all going during foot and mouth with her courage and compassion. She inspires me still.
Hilary Peters EDIARY 2002
I am travelling round Britain, visiting people who are telling the public about farming.
There is so much misunderstanding, misinformation and ignorance about farming that even the word farmer means opposite things to different people.
To me, it means someone who co-operates with the land and animals to produce food. There are many ways of doing this.
In the second half of the twentieth century, chemicals, drugs and heavy machinery became widely used in farming, transforming husbandry into industry. I see this sort of farming as a dead end, so my journey is a search for farmers who are not agro-industrialists, farms where animals are not exploited and the soil is nourished, outlets where profits go straight to the farmer, teaching material which shows the whole story of farming. Given my prejudices, I mainly visit organic farms and local projects, but I want to see industrial farms too.
I think the public should hear both sides of the debate.
ALDER CARR FARM, NEEDHAM MARKET. SUFFOLK. PYO fruit,shop selling their own ice cream (delicious), fruit, veg. And much organic produce.
They also host a farmers’ market once a month (3rd Sat.) There is a “mission statement “ pinned to a shelf in the shop:
Fairly traded goods give small farmers like us in the “third world” a fair price for their produce. By choosing to eat these products you can become involved in changing the way the world works.
Changing the way the world works. Yes. That’s what we need to do. Before I can give up Tesco’s, I need Alder Carr and places like it, to sell Greek-style yoghurt, dog food, a bran based cereal
FRIDAY STREET FARM SHOP, SAXMUNDHAM, SUFFOLK.
Very successful and established. They sell their own vegetables and have a PYO dept, mainly for their own maize. They also have a cafi, which I have not yet tried, but the main attraction is their up-market shop. Some excellent local produce (smoked fish from Orford, pies and cakes from Glemham Hall and more). What worries me is the amount of stuff that is just expensive. They fit more easily into the “niche market” niche that the NFU would like to cover all local activity.
FARM cafi ON THE A12 AT MARLESFORD, SUFFOLK.
The idea is to use only local food and local labour. They use local suppliers for anything not grown locally.
The cafi is open from 7 to 7 every day, so they give employment to 16 local people. A quality transport caff. Even the tomato ketchup and brown sauce are made locally. They also do cream teas and quite posh lunches.
POUND FARM, GLEMHAM, SUFFOLK.
Traditional Suffolk farm taken over by the Woodland Trust. Areas of woodland (mostly newly planted, broadleaf, mixed) interspersed with “wildflower meadows” which are mown. No farm animals at all, but wildlife is encouraged, with dense areas of scrub.
As a dog-walker, I enjoyed it, but how does it make an income? Is this the future of farming?
BRUISYARD VINEYARD, SAXMUNDHAM, SUFFOLK.
Informative and interesting Walkman tour of the vines and processes. Wine tasting included.
Flourishing and welcoming family business.
EASTON FARM PARK, WICKHAM MARKET. SUFFOLK.
Teaching farm with splendid Victorian dairy. This is no longer used commercially, but is a museum, as is the Victorian laundry. There is historic farm machinery too.
Always on view are chicks being hatched in incubators, fluffy animals for children to meet, pigs, goats, and Suffolk Punch horses, which they breed. I went to the Suffolk Punch Spectacular here. And it was. 40 Suffolks in a ring is quite a sight.
Today the whole farm was host to a farmers’ market. Local and organic fruit and veg. (specially featuring the new apple crop), fruit juices, meat, poultry, game, fish and fish-cakes, preserves and chutneys, a few woollen goods, cheeses, ice cream, bread and cakes. A very high standard of produce and not unnecessarily expensive. Suffolk abounds in local produce and local talent. I intend to visit these farmers on their farms.
Easton is very good at teaching material, which appears on notice boards all over the farm. It is particularly informative in the milking parlour (much of it posters produced by the Milk Marketing Board). Until this June, the public could look down from the vast gallery onto the cows being milked beneath. Now Easton has given up its milking herd and the gallery remains, an echoing memorial to twentieth century farming.
The lanes of Suffolk are choked with heavy machinery. On all sides, beats are being carved out of the ground, ploughing tractors are hidden in clouds of dust as the soil is blown away, fields are saturated with assorted poisons. The lanes I drive through are lined with notices warning that sulphuric acid will attack anyone venturing
onto the fields. But the balance of nature is asserting itself. Suffolk is in the middle of England’s prairie farming and it is here that the counter-revolution is most in evidence. I daily come across individuals who are selling inventive organic products direct to the public. Whole villages are rebelling against current trends. One is
EARL SOHAM : A MEDIUM SIZED VILLAGE WITH TWO FLOURISHING SHOPS AND ITS OWN BREWERY
The Post Office sells its own range of pre-cooked meals, the local beer (Earl Soham) and cider (Aspal) on draught, organic veg, local bread, including a potato loaf, fresh fish, and most other essentials.
The butcher, John Hutton, under a large flag of St. George, sells organic and free range meat from local farms, his own sausages, and even milk which is as local as you’ll get (from Marybell Dairy in Walpole, which processes milk from East Anglian cows.)
THE WILD MEAT COMPANY
Started 3 years ago to process and pack the surplus game from shoots, deer culled from Rendlesham Forest, rabbits etc. They also give you recipes.
Excellent range of game, not that expensive. They sell direct to the public, at farmers’ markets and farm shops.
HIGH HOUSE FRUIT FARM, SUDBOURNE, SUFFOLK.
PYO fruit. Fine range of apples at the moment: Cox, Russet, James Greaves, Jonagored, Bramley, Discovery.
Also superb apple juice made from all the above and a very good Cox and Bramley mix.
The farm shop is self serve in the true sense. You weigh your own fruit and leave your own money.
BLAXHALL RARE BREEDS, BLAXHALL, SUFFOLK.
Run by a farmer’s daughter, Nigella Youngs-Dunnett whose story sums up twentieth century farming. Her father had a 130 acre mixed farm, which became too small to flourish, as it had when she was a child. He then had a milking herd of Jerseys and again did well for a time. When the pressure to get bigger and bigger defeated him, and the farm was sold. Nigella now keeps her animals on any bits of land she can rent in the area. She has Highland cattle, Red Polls and English Whites on the marshes, Gloucester Old Spot pigs and Jacob and Shetland sheep on the local sand. She goes with her animals to the local slaughter house and has a local firm who cut up her meat. “It’s as good as it can be,” she says. She sells meat, wool and woolen garments to her own circle of customers and at farmers’ markets.
GREENWAY VEG. STONHAM, SUFFOLK.
Certified organic seasonal veg. I had squashes, courgettes, leeks. Very good. They also have 2 flocks of free range hens, fed on organic, feed. Very fresh eggs.
They do weekly veggie boxes as well.
GRANGEWORTH QUALITY FARM FOODS.
Their own beef, slaughtered locally, butchered and packed by Grangeworth. They also buy in local pigs and lambs. Some of their cows are grazing on the farm I am looking after, so I know they have a good life. Bill Palfreman who runs Grangeworth says “We diversified before diversify was a word.”
FARMERS’ MARKET. BECCLES HELIPORT. SUFFOLK
A hell of a place, miles from anywhere and smelling of sour farming. Even the heliport is abandoned. Norfolk wind slams against the derelict hangers. But inside, the farmers’ market is well attended, both by stall holders and customers. Just think what they could do in the centre of Beccles.
Several growers from Norfolk including Greenwood/s apple juice (outstandingly good. They also do cider, though not at this market); many free-range, organic and even Freedom Food Approved meat stalls, organic fruit and vegetables, especially roots and apples, pies and cakes galore, fresh fish, herbs and plants. I see an opening for local, organic potato crisps, organic breakfast cereals.
There was only one local cheese and that was from Suffolk (Church Farm, Saxmundham. I mean to visit them)OCT. 7.
“The problem is the regulations”.
I don’t suppose any farmer would disagree with that. This journey is the story of people who have jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops, cut through the red tape, and somehow reached the public. During the years of five year plans, Russia lived off the people’s allotments and the tiny amounts of farming they did in their spare time. There is the same desperation and the same determination to survive in British farming now. (And by farming, I do not mean agri-business.)
Our neighbour here has an exceptionally beautiful herd of Anglo-Nubian pedigree goats and a cafi called the Dancing Goat in Framlingham. You might think the goats would supply the cafi. No such luck. It would cost a fortune to install the equipment Defra now requires. This is goats we’re talking about. They do not get most of the illnesses that make the authorities so jumpy about cows’ milk. In the mid-seventies in the middle of London, I was making a cheese from my goats’ milk and selling it to local health food shops! It’s another world.
At CHURCH FARM, FRISTON, SAXMUNDHAM, they do make cheese and yoghurt, AND sell it direct to the public. They deal with the regulations by “just keeping on and on.” Church Farm is a small organic family farm, milking 70 cows, mostly Friesian-Holsteins with some Red Polls. All their cows were bred on the farm. They haven’t bought an animal for 30 years. All processes are done on the farm and produce is sold locally at farm shops and farmers’ markets. Cheese making is a recent development. They wanted to buy British equipment, but couldn’t fine any. Reluctantly, they turned to Holland, where they got what they needed with no trouble. Their Yoghurt is excellent and creamy. They make flavoured curd cheese, which I haven’t tried and “Cheddar”, which I liked very much, but they are giving it up in favour of “Caerphilly”. Their cows lead an independent existence, with a robotic milking parlour. This means they can come in and get themselves milked whenever they feel the need.
LANE FARM, BRUNDISH. SUFFOLK.
I spoke to Ian Whitehead, who has 200 breeding sows kept free-range to Freedom Food standards. While he will maintain the standards ( freedom from fear, pain, hunger, discomfort, and freedom to express normal behaviour) he is thinking of leaving the scheme, because they will not allow him to use his local slaughter house at Earsham. Instead he will be required to send his pigs to Norwich. With everyone I have spoken to, Ian says the slaughter house at Earsham makes slaughter as stress-free as it can be. His meat is back on his farm in 2 hours. On the farm, he has a cutting plant and a trained butcher. All meat is hung for 3 days. He and his wife make sausages, stuffed joints of pork, bacon. They are developing new ways of eating pig all the time. They sell to farmers’ markets (where they are never too busy to talk to customers) and local shops.
CHURCH FARM, CODDENHAM. SUFFOLK
I was told they sell milk at the gate from their own Red Polls. They don’t, but I saw the Red Polls, grazing on unsprayed meadow. Their milk is obtainable from
Alder Carr Farm. www.aldercarrfarm.co.uk.
Spoke to DEREK JONES, who made and sold goat and sheep cheese until Foot and Mouth, when his supply of milk dried up. The sheep were killed. They were contiguous to the abattoir in Essex where FMD was first identified. Restrictions also meant that his goats’ milk could not be delivered. He says it is untrue that FMD did not hit East Anglia. Most animals survived, but the processors were badly hammered. Derek teaches at Otley Agricultural College where they got an ultimatum from Defra: “You lose either all your animals or all your students.” The animals (goats, sheep, pigs and cows) went. They are not allowed to restock in the middle of the college, where the farm used to be.
Another village that is maintaining a local tradition. Creasey’s the butcher, in a tin shack, sell local meat, local game and their own pies, stews and soups for the freezer. Talk, inevitably, was of the ludicrous burden of regulations that afflict local slaughter houses and cutting plants. Emmet’s, at the other end of the long village, have been curing and smoking ham for over 100 years. They still do this on the premises, where they also sell luxury olives, almonds, wines. The shop is a cross between a Victorian grocer and a posh delicatessen. In between them, “Campaign” sells carpet-covered deck-chairs. Nothing to do with farming, but gorgeous.
RICKHINGHALL FARMERS MARKET
In pouring rain (the first since I’ve been in Suffolk). Most stalls were in the village hall, but some vegetables and plants were selling well outside. Excellent selection EXCEPT no cheese. There is a huge gap in the market here. Pakenham Water Mill selling wholemeal, stoneground flour and giving away tastes of very good bread, Highways of Rickinghall welcome callers at weekends and have a pedigree herd of Gloucester Old Spots and sell a huge selection of chutneys and pickles, Punchards Farm, Rattlesden also welcome visitors to see their pedigree herd of Jerseys and sell milk and cream. I mean to go and see them. Brampton Wild Boar, near Beccles, have some touching literature about their pigs, Springfields Beef, Hemingford Abbots, gave me delicious roast beef, the Old Chimneys Brewery, Market Weston has recently opened a beer shop, selling other breweries’ beers as well as their own, the Really Real Food Co www.reallyrealfood.co.uk
Have a farm shop at Hethel and send out boxes of organic goodies. I bought some Suffolk Honey from Dorling Apiaries, Finningham. And there were more vegetable stalls and bakers without obvious names.
You would think with names like the Really Real Food Company, that spin had caught up with farmers markets. This is far from the case, at least in Suffolk. This particular company sell eggs, lamb and vegetables from their own farm, and take great trouble to make sure that the rest is organic. Everyone I talked to was a farmer, not a professional seller.
Many thanks to all who have sent comments and encouraging criticism. It makes me feel this is worthwhile. Please do email me with corrections, additions, questions, which I probably won’t be able to answer, and whatever you want to say:
Saw Ann Tomkinson at PUNCHARDS FARM, RATTLESDEN, SUFFOLK.
They have a Jersey herd. I saw them in the fields, and the latest calves, soon to go out. The cows had just spent their first night in. They sell milk and cream from a fridge by the front door, so you can help yourself at any time. Both are unpasteurised. The Tomkinsons, frequently inspected, are allowed to sell unpasteurised milk direct to the public, but not to shops, so it gets sold at farmers’ markets. The cream they can sell anywhere. It’s wonderful stuff, well worth traveling the breadth of Suffolk for. The milk is the colour of cream; the cream is the consistency of ice-cream.
HOLLOW TREES FARM SHOP, SEMER, SUFFOLK.
NFU farm shop of the year. It’s big, with a farm trail, which had the feel of a front for some much harder sell. Their apples are really good, but the shop is less well-stocked than FRIDAY STREET, where I had lunch. It was both good and cheap (unlike some things in the shop).
On the way, I rejected the FARM cafi at Marlsford as being too expensive for lunch. Also it had a notice outside saying NO HGV’S, which I really take exception to. I wanted to ask them why but they were crowded, so people don’t share my taste.
I do object to the “niche market” idea.
JAMES WHITE, ASHBOCKING, SUFFOLK
Apples everywhere. They make fruit juices, including apple and carrot (my favourite) and tomato They also do fruit coulis. They also have a shop selling other peoples’ juices and ciders, which is big of them, and their own vegetables, both fresh and frozen.
SWISS FARM ASHBOCKING, SUFFOLK.
Local pork and a large variety of sausages. I did not ask how the pigs were kept. There is a huge number of free range pigs in Suffolk, but I should have asked. I would like to work towards a culture where everyone who sells meat is eager to talk about animal welfare. I’m not going to help to change the way the world works unless I ask the right questions.
Also a cheese counter. Not local cheese of course.
FOXBURROW FARM, MELTON, SUFFOLK.
Owned by Suffolk Wildlife Trust and run as a working, mixed farm. Grazing interspersed with woods and ponds for the wildlife. Sheep (Hebridean and Beulah) graze the sandlings in an attempt to restore Suffolk’s traditional heathland. Scrub is converted into firewood and wood chippings (no charcoal?) Bracken, traditionally cut for bedding, is being sprayed. They say this is a one-off to get back to a reasonable balance and then maintain it by grazing. Educational opportunities on offer.
FIVE WINDS SMOKEHOUSE AND BUTCHER, MELTON, SUFFOLK
In the old station house. Smoked meat. High-class butchery; so high-class that some of the meat comes from Scotland, but local produce too.
RICHARDSON’S SMOKEHOUSE behind the Butley Oysterage in ORFORD.
Smoked fish of all sorts, smoked fish pate, smoked game, smoked sausages, smoked cheese, smoked garlic. If it’s edible, they’ll smoke it. It all comes out wonderful
GRANGE FARM, HASKETON, SUFFOLK.
Found it on my fifth attempt. It’s not that difficult to find as long as you don’t go to Hasketon. Home of some enterprising selling: dried flowers and saddlery as well as huge farm shop with their own fruit and veg, specially apples just now. And you can taste them. This is really nice for some of the older varieties, notably James Grieve, now staging a come-back. The shop is well stocked. All the old friends and a few new ones:
KENNEL FARM, HASKETON
Rear free-range Light Sussex chickens. They are naturally fed and grow more slowly than intensively reared birds. They range over 15 acres of pasture
Talking to our neighbour at HALL FARM, SWEFFLING about the future for chickens, I realise that even the free range market is highly organised and competitive. He is planning to sell free-range eggs. 10,000 birds (and that’s the minimum Defra will consider) will range over 25 acres. They lay for 14 months and then go for dog meat. He will be supplying Marks and Spencers and inspected by Freedom Food. Producers are staggered so that the 2 months when they are not selling eggs are covered by another producer.
DEDHAM FARMERS’ MARKET
Vegetables and fruit and juices and meat and plants and chutneys and a baker and
GOURMET MUSHROOMS, MORANTS FARM, GT. BROMLEY, ESSEX
Exciting display, but no time of year to sell mushrooms to me. I pick as many as I want every day
SCOTLAND PLACE FARM, STOKE-BY-NAYLAND, ESSEX:
“You are welcome to come and see our Happy Healthy Hens in their Natural Environment.”
Their meat looked good too, including mutton.
FARMERS’ MARKET S: ALDER CARR, NEEDHAM MARKET, SUFFOLK.
LONG MELFORD FARMERS’ MARKET. SUFFOLK.
People I didn’t know included BROOKLYNNE FARM, Beaumont, Clacton, with an excellent range of vegetables, LONGWOOD FARM, Tuddenham St. Mary, who have been doing organic meat for 12 years and care a lot about the way their animals live, CRATFIELD BEEF, who have free-range cattle, slaughtered and butchered locally, ALL NATURAL MOBILE BAKERY, who bake organic and traditional bread as you watch,
HILLSIDE POULTRY FARM, BILLERICAY, who rear chicken and turkeys giving them “a decent area” (ie. not free-range) and no drugs, growth-enhancers or GM feed.
ROZBERT DAIRY, PEBMARSH, ESSEX,
have a mixed herd of 300 goats and make yogurt and goat cheese on their own farm. Their garlic cheese is very good: rather dry and crumbly.
Gradually moving into Essex. Many of these people sell in London as well, but these farmers’ markets really are extremely local.
Worms are turning in exciting numbers.
The great triumvirate of Suffolk farming -- the Suffolk Punch, the Red Poll cow and the Suffolk sheep -- have shaped the landscape. Wealth from their labours has poured back into the exquisite Suffolk churches. Now, all three are forgotten (except by enthusiasts); their heritage ignored and destroyed. Suffolk sheep are very rare in Suffolk, while still plentiful elsewhere, Suffolk Punches are just for show or nostalgia. Only the Red Poll is staging a small, specialised come-back. Much the commonest sight now is free-range pigs and of course, poisoned, hedgeless fields. Hedges also are coming back, subsidised by the government, who, such a short time ago were subsidising their removal. Although industrial farming still has Suffolk in its grip, it is obvious now that its life is limited. I shall probably live to see factory farming remembered as part of our heritage, like the Suffolk Punch, though surely with less affection.
So what is replacing it?
AVOCET ALPACAS, BURNT HOUSE FARM, FARNHAM, SUFFOLK.www.avocetalpacas.co.uk 43 alpacas and a herd of Shetland sheep bring a strangely exotic flavour to the sands of coastal Suffolk. Joanna and Giles de Bertodano are working on combining Shetland wool and Alpaca fibre to make their own cloth and, ultimately their own luxury garments. They also offer a scanning service for alpacas. They sell Shetland lamb, which is very good.
RENDHAM HALL FARM01728 663440 David and Colette Strachan have a dairy herd of 200 Holsteins. They process, bottle and sell their own milk under the trade name of MARYBELLE. Its lovely milk, which should be in all the local shops. The cream is made into ice-cream, also by the hard-working Strachans. It is sold in local shops as
SUFFOLK MEADOW ICE CREAM. There are numerous delicious flavours. They also do sorbets. This brave, independent venture is struggling against enormous odds. "It's a big big hill to climb," Colette told me "and I don't like heights"The Strachans are forging a trail that is so important for British farming. They are over-worked and harassed.
They need more outlets for their milk. They need a website. They need our support.
HALESWORTH, SUFFOLK is a small town under threat. At the moment, it has three excellent butchers, one of whom, DICK HURRAN, is world-class. Mr Hurran is a perfectionist who chooses all his meat himself from traditional local herds, and hangs it for four weeks. There is an ORGANIC SHOP where I finally found a local bran cereal. They make it themselves. There is a delicatessen, called COUNTRY KITCHEN, who make their own freezer foods and sell another local milk from DOUGLAS FARM, DITCHINGHAM, SUFFOLK.
The threat is from a developer who wants to build a supermarket. All locals are against this, but the planning ban has been overturned on appeal.
(My thanks to Lady Cranbrook, who first told me about Halesworth. The threat is not obvious if you go there.)
KW CLARKE BRAMFIELD.Bramfield, until recently was the local slaughterhouse. The rash of new regulations defeated them but the meat cutting plant is still working and all local producers of meat say it is invaluable. Jeremy Thickett, who runs it, has a farm shop on site, which has recently taken over the local Post Office. It sells a good selection of local foods including their own chutneys, jams, honey, cakes and of course, their own sausages and local meat.
I would really like to think that this is the future of British farming.
THE CIDER PLACE, ILKETSHALL ST. LAWRENCE, SUFFOLKWest Country-style farm cider, made with West Country-style equipment. Just as in the West Country, you can go to the cider farm, taste, and pass out. Also apple juice and cider vinegar.
RUMBURG FARM, RUMBURGH, SUFFOLKwww.rumburghfarm.freeserve.co.uk Free-range turkey farm where the turkeys rush to greet you, shouting at the tops of their voices. They are as free-range as youll get. You order now to collect on Dec. 23 or 24. You cant get a turkey here at any other time of year, but in May, you can get asparagus.
You can also get bed and breakfast and its a delightful place to stay, as long as you like your country flat.
METFIELD BAKERYLocal and organic bakery. Their bread is sold in local shops and at farmers markets. It is very good.
ST. CROSS FARM, SOUTH ELMHAM, SUFFOLKMixed farm under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. This means you can walk through the farm to see the ruined minster. On the way, you see British White cows, bred free-range for beef, rearing their calves. You go through fields of cale and potatoes (and peas and wheat in season, although next year they are going to have more set-aside because the wheat made no money.) You see newly planted trees and some old ones left over from the time before the de-forestation of this part of Suffolk. Interesting to look back through generations of farming from this time of transition.
LEISTON, SUFFOLKis the cradle of agricultural machinery. You could say the agro-industrial revolution started here. The ironically named Suffolk Punch tractor was built here during the first world war. Its home is now a museum. It is a lot deader than its namesake the horse. In the jolly nostalgia of a steam museum, I thought soon the occasional factory farm will become a tourist attraction, like concentration camps.
It is very noticeable now that intensive units say PRIVATE, KEEP OUT, with barbed wire, while small farmers mostly welcome the public and are keen to talk about their ideas and products. They are also prepared to talk about animal welfare and this is the greatest change of all.
BOTANY FARM, FARNHAM, SUFFOLK
Eric Moss keeps free ranging Red Polls on the marshes of the upper Alde. He sells the beef locally.
PEASENHALL PANTRY(who also run a cafi in Peasenhall: very good sandwich) supplies a large range of frozen meals using local ingredients. They do outside catering too.
Eating my BLT sandwich (all local) I stumbled on a natural law:
It is really encouraging to get your emails. I hope to visit you all in the end
Meanwhile, good luck to all the individualists of Suffolk.
OAKLANDS is a Camphill Village, one of many communities following the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner. Adults with learning difficulties (the villagers) live and work with people whose difficulties are not so obvious to create a utopian society. It works. The community is based round a bio-dynamic farm. And now I’ve stubbed my toe on the basic problem. Do my readers know – do I know – what bio-dynamic means? I could explain, but it takes a volume.
The problem is communication.
To simplify outrageously, Steiner believed that we are all linked: humans, animals, plants, the earth, and beyond. His farming, education, dance, religion, all worked out aspects of this belief with German thoroughness. Steiner’s followers are so dedicated, so thorough and so right that it is quite hard for them to communicate with the rest of the world. That doesn’t bother them. There are lots of them and they communicate well with one another. But it should bother the rest of the world because they have something we really need. To take farming, their soil is nurtured naturally, their crops are superbly healthy, their animals (and people) thrive, because bio-dynamic farming gives back at least as much as it takes out.
At Oaklands in the Forest of Dean, they have a flock of sheep, a herd of cows, fruit trees, a kitchen garden. They produce enough to feed themselves (more than 100 of them) and sell the surplus. There is also a weavery, so the sheeps’ wool is valued. The whole system works because the profit motive plays no part in it.
So when the sheep all round them had Foot and Mouth and the authorities wanted to slaughter their healthy animals, it wasn’t just their cows and sheep that were threatened, though that was awful enough. It was their whole way of life.
They withstood a siege. We supported them. And out of that victory the frail resistance to the government’s farming policy was born.
The problem for us, the resistance, is how to talk meaningfully about farming to the great urban public who sit in their tower blocks and get fed, or to policy makers who see farming in terms of industry.
As a society, we see farming only in terms of profit. This is not the only way to see it. Oaklands works as a whole. The fact that they produce more food than they need is incidental. Is there any message here for the rest of us?
WICK COURT, FRAMILODE, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Wick Court is a mixed farm with Gloucester cattle, Gloucester Old Spot pigs, Cotswold sheep, poultry, an apple orchard and the farm’s original cider making equipment in working order. There is also a wonderful house: a Tudor hunting lodge, part of the Berkeley estate. It is ideally placed to have groups of city children to stay in the house and work on the farm. This is what happens as part of a scheme called Farms For City Children.
Wick Court is very much a working farm, producing Single Gloucester and Double Gloucester cheeses as well as meat, and selling them at local shops and Farmers’ Markets. It is also a major contributer in the communication battle. Children who would otherwise have no idea what farming is about see a mixed, traditional farm at work and join in.
OVER FARM MARKET, GLOUCESTER
Known for their colourful mounds of squashes at this time of year, Over has been going 20 years, bringing a range of local food to the side of the A40, just outside Gloucester. They sell their own vegetables in admirable profusion. They have also returned 200 acres to meadowland, grazed by their own cattle. Their own beef appears in the new butchery section, together with free range Cotswold lamb and free range Gloucester Old Spot pork and bacon. They have a good range of English (though not particularly of local) cheeses. Milk from HYDE FARM DAIRY, CHELTENHAM, another brave and local dairy. Over also do their bit for communication, with animals you can visit, notably goats, donkeys and free range hens.
FULMAYS FARM, MINCHINHAMPTON. GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Fulmays, who are in the middle of a farm-move from Nastend, started as a dairy farm. When dairy farming became financially impossible, they added Gloucester Old Spot pigs, who live a fairly wild life, rootling in the woods. Now they have Gloucester cattle as well. They sell the meat at Farmers’ Markets. When settled in Minchinhampton, they will welcome visitors.
THE MOHAIR CENTRE, LONGHOPE, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
A sad story. There used to be a large herd of Angora goats, a shop selling mohair wool and clothes, a visitor centre and cafi. Now the goats and shop are being phased out and the rest is becoming a “children’s entertainment centre”.
Not a triumph for education.
I heard another sad story in Stroud. Local people have been extremely active in opposing a planning application by MacDonalds. As far as I can gather, not a single person in Stroud wants MacDonalds, but they’re going to get it just the same. I can only hope that not a single person will patronise it.
THE BOROUGH FARMERS MARKET
Already, farmers are finding it’s easier to get someone else to do the selling and who can blame them? I do regret it though. Best of the new-style salesmen are Neal’s Yard Dairy, who take great pains to display names and addresses of individual farmers. Some of them, making excellent cheese, are from Ram Hall in the W. Midlands, Riseley in Bucks, Churcham in Gloucestershire, Nantwich in Cheshire. Also yoghurt from Dorstone in Herefordshire and S. Molton in Devon and butter from Wroughton in Wilts and Moorhayes, Wincanton. Milk (Jersey, unhomogenised) from the Bowles family, Beckington, Bath. Free range eggs from Saffron Walden.
Also at the Borough were:
Farmer Sharp’s Herdwick lamb
Furness Fish, Poultry and Game Supplies with
Morecambe Bay potted shrimps,
Northfield Farm, Rutland (Naturally reared meats)
West Country Venison
Trethowan’s from Gorwydd with their own Caerphilly
Sillfield Farm, Kendal (Wild Boar)
I feel some cashing in is already going on. Also one or two market traders are left over from the old Borough Market with wonderful displays of vegetables. OK they didn’t grow them themselves, but it’s good to see them still around.
The communication battle is being fought hard at the Borough.
Farmers have only just started to communicate with consumers and it’s not surprising that they differ about what they are trying to put across and who to. The Borough represents all shades of opinion from Pate de foi gras and a stuffed pheasant inside a duck inside a goose to vegans and farmers who put animal welfare first.
BLACKHEATH FARMERS’ MARKET
Warren Farm, New Romney, Kent, “giving our animals the care and consideration they deserve. All are genuinely free-range, in as natural a habitat as possible”. I mean to go and see them.
Bob and Chris Fridd, Selling, Faversham, Kent, with their own home grown veg. Lots of it.
Flower Power City, Hoxton, organic baker.
Chegworth Valley fruit and fruit juice.
www.applejuicedirect.com (very interesting site)
Nut Knowle Farm, Horam, E. Sussex. Goat cheese.
Telling the public about farming is the most important thing we can do.
We’ve hardly started yet.
I am on this journey for the same reason I started a city farm, which is the same reason I became a gardener. I am moved by the dreadful cut-offness of humans from the natural world. This cut-offness has some strange symptoms. One recurring one is people’s inability to admit that they are moved by animal suffering. They would find it easier to tell you they had AIDS than say that they cared about animal welfare. Genuine care for animals is disguised as "good stockmanship". Taste and human health are considered more relevant to the consumer than whether the animal had a good life and a painless death. Farmers who obviously care for their animals are ashamed to admit this. Why?
November 11th 2002
THE APPLE SHOP, BLACKMOOR VALE, BORDON, HANTS.
Not looking particularly thriving, perhaps because it is Monday.
Their own fruit and cakes, Also local cream and ice-cream from, MEADOW COTTAGE FARM, HEADLEY, HANTS. I’ll ask them where their milk goes.
CAPRICORN GOATS CHEESE
PRIORS DEAN WINE, SELBOURNE, HANTS.
HILL FARM ORCHARDS SWANMORE, HANTS. Fruit juices, which are a thriving industry wherever I go.
November 13th 2002
DURLEIGH MARSH FARM SHOP, PETERSFIELD, HANTS.
Very good PYO. I have been before for asparagus and strawberries. They also do PYO flowers and herbs in season.
Shop is particularly rich in dairy products and has a good selection of cheese, several from Dorset but at least 3 are more local:
Interesting cheeses from ASHDOWN FOREST ORGANIC, SUSSEX HIGH WEALD DAIRY, DUDDLESWELL, E. SUSSEX
Italian style cheese from TWINEHAM GRANGE, W. SUSSEX
Sheep’s cheese and yogurt from WIELDWOOD, ALRESFORD, HANTS.
Unfortunately Olivia Mills has just died, so I can’t go and see her. She made this cheese and also founded the Sheep Dairying Association
Butter and cream also from Dorset.
Stoneground flour from the local museum, which has a water mill at SINGLETON.
Free range eggs from SOUTHDEAN FARM, FROXFIELD, HANTS.
Country wines from LURGASHALL WINERY, W. SUSSEX
Cyder from GOSPEL GREEN, W. SUSSEX
BURTS potato crisps from Devon.
November 14th 2002
MEADOW COTTAGE DAIRY FARM, HEADLEY, HANTS.
Herd of healthy looking Jerseys (not lame, not too thin, straight backs). Friendly and free collies. I bought milk, cream, and ice-cream. They have just won a gold award for their ice-cream. Unfortunately, most of the milk gets sold on. I wonder if I could persuade him to make yogurt. This is how Loseley got going. He was putting the bull on a cow with one hand, and selling to me with the other, while expecting the milk recorder. Anything else might be too much.
November 15th 2002
BOWTELL’S FARM SHOP. EAST TISTED, HANTS.
Seems very genuine, although I didn’t see the animals. It is primarily a butcher’s shop, selling their own pork and bacon, beef and lamb. The Bowtells care about their animals and tell you in detail how they are kept, still not saying in so many words that they care about animals. When it comes to slaughter "we minimize the stress on our animals with short journey times and familiar handling." All their animals range freely and are fed only on natural, GM free feed.
They also sell milk from another independent dairy:
WATSON’S DAIRY, MISLINGFORD, WICKHAM, HANTS and apple juice from HILL FARM ORCHARDS, SWANMORE. HANTS.
LYBURN FARMHOUSE CHEESES, LANDFORD, SALISBURY, WILTS
November 16th 2002
LURGASHALL WINERY, PETWORTH. W. SUSSEX
Very easy on the eye, sunk in Sussex woodland. They make country wines (Elderflower, Rose Petal, Silver Birch, Gooseberry, Blackberry etc) and you can taste them. Also meads and liqueurs. Definitely not like your grandmother used to make, unless she was extremely skilled. They are good at selling too. I have found their wines on the other side of the country.
November 17th 2002
MILFORD FARM MARKET
A very good market. Farmers’ markets in the South country are less frequent and far less numerous than in East Anglia. But when you get one, it is full of interest, variety and real farmers. I was going to say industrial farming hasn’t swept the South in the way it has E. Anglia, so the need to react against it is less pressing, but that would be an insult to the organic, free-range and dedicated farmers I met this morning. It was also very well attended by customers, in spite of the rain. It is possible that there are not so many people round here as there are round Stroud who have given up supermarkets completely and live from one farmers’ market to the next. You’d need a freezer to do that, but then, everyone round here has a freezer.
Vegetables were in shortest supply.
SECRETT’S FARM SHOP, who hosted the market, had a spectacular stall. Also
TEST VALLEY WATERCRESS and the man I bought spinach from, who had excellent leaves but no name.
Then there was meat:
LOWER ROUNDHURST FARM, HASLEMERE, SURREY
www.roundhurstfarm.co.uk Organic Sussex cattle.
UPTON REDHEADS ORGANIC POULTRY
LEE HOUSE FARM, BILLINGSHURST, SUSSEX. ORGANIC BREAKFAST
HAMPSHIRE GAME LTD
LYDLING FARM ABERDEEN ANGUS
SHIPRODS FARM, HORSHAM, beef and mutton.
And more. And dairy products:
MEADOW COTTAGE FARM with their wonderful milk, cream, and ice cream
And excellent beer from ITCHEN VALLEY BREWERY, ALRESFORD, HANTS
Cakes and pies from: DORSET BLUEBERRY CO, who grow their own blueberries
LIME TREE PANTRY all the way from Notts.
Bread from SLINDON BAKERY. A fascinating selection, including Roman bread.
Seafood from SELSEY WILLOWS
Baskets from THE ENCHANTED WOOD, DUNSFOLD, SURREY. She was making them on the spot and you can order what you want. 07971 377921
And best of all to me, two stalls with woollen goods:
THE PENHROS FLOCK of Jacob sheep, selling skins, knitting wool and woven rugs and garments, courtesy of THE NATURAL FIBRE CO. LAMPETER, POWYS. who have given new hope to many small wool producers.
ANNE BROCKHURST makes a living from her smallholding in Fernhurst. She added peg-loom rugs and naturally died wool to an inspiring collection.
With wool, I have to admit, it is a niche market. Man-made fibres have taken over the mass market and they really are cheap, easy to wear and cruelty-free (cruelty to animals anyway). Wool is for people who love and appreciate it and sheep are valued only by that small minority. There is not the direct parallel here with food that industrial farmers assume. There is no reason, except ignorance, why this island should not feed itself, value its farm animals and be a whole lot healthier – mentally and physically.
The South country is a fascinating hunting ground. This week, I shall go to the WEALD AND DOWNLAND MUSEUM in SINGLETON, where they have an exhibition of past farming methods, leading up to THE FUTURE.
NOV. 20SECRETTS FARM SHOP, MILFORD, SURREY. Also a posh garden centre. They grow a lot and have a large PYO section. They also sell a lot of other people's produce. This really is a farm supermarket, with different sections on all sides of a courtyard. There are fruit and veg, fresh and frozen, fruit juices including:
OWLETT APPLE JUICE, LAMBERHURST, KENT
DUSKIN APPLE JUICE, KINGSTON, CANTERBURY, KENT,
GRANNY STEAD'S GINGER, SHOREHAM, W.SUSSEX,
Free range eggs from CHAPEL FARM, NORMANDY, SURREY. All meat comes from a local butcher, WAKELING of GODALMING, who also does frozen meals under the name of COUNTRY COOKS. Fish shop run by REX GOLDSMITH
Dairy (very good and comprehensive) Fine selection of cheeses, including:
SUSSEX HIGH WEALD, DUDDLESWELL www.sussexhighwealddairy.co.uk
Who do sheep's cheese using their own and other milk and cow's cheese using local milk
LYBURN, HAMPTWORTH, SALISBURY. WILTS. www.lyburncheese.co.uk
Milk from GT. HOOKLEY FARM, ELSTEAD, SURREY.
NATURE MADE, DEVON (Sheep)
WOODLANDS PARK, WIMBORNE, DORSET (goat and they do goat butter)
GREAT DORSTONE, HEREFORDSHIRE.
STAPLETON, DEVON Cream from
OLD PLACE FARM, ANGMERING, SUSSEX.
WEYDOWN, HEADLEY, HANTS.
MANOR FARM ORGANIC, DORSET.
Ice cream from
ROCOMBE ORGANIC www.rocombefarm.co.uk
MEADOW COTTAGE, HEADLEY, HANTS
LOSELEY, GODALMING, SURREY
DUCHY ORIGINALS. GLOUCESTERSHIRE
NOV. 20. 2002SUSSEX WEALD AND DOWNLAND MUSEUM, SINGLETON.
They sell their own stoneground flour from the watermill, and charcoal and logs from their woods. They have Sussex cattle, Southdown sheep, heavy horses, Light Sussex hens, and an exhibition by Richard Harris about the history of farming, illustrated with local examples. I'd recommend this to anyone wanting to understand the direction farming took in the twentieth century and how it got there.
I was struck by the traditional interdependence of humans, animals and the landscape, so recently ruptured and now so irrecoverable. The primeval forest, which is still a feature of Sussex, was partially cleared to produce the sheep runs. The sheep manured the weald for crops. The wood from the shaws (the belts of uncleared woodland) became building material, fencing, hurdles, charcoal for the blast furnaces. The animals' needs designed the landscape. Their manure and meat, wool, milk, eggs fed the people who tended the animals, the fields, the woodland. The country supported its population and was supported by them Now, we have broken the cycle and we won't get it back. If it wasn't for museums like this, we might not even know it once existed. The question is: What can we put in its place?
NOV. 21APPLEGARTH FARM SHOP, GRAYSHOTT, SURREY
Sell their own cakes, pies, jams, chutneys and, among many other things, milk from
PENSWORTH FARM DAIRY, REDLYNCH, WILTS
NOV. 22.HAMMER TROUT FARM AND SMOKERY, HEWSHOTT, HANTS.
Trout and watercress in a beautiful, wild valley. They also have a smokery.
NOV. 23.PETWORTH FARMERS' MARKET. W. SUSSEX.
Petworth and Midhurst farmers' markets are under review. They have been going for a trial period and I went to the last one in Petworth. In spite of deluging rain, it was a cheerful and genuine affair, filling the town with enthusiastic visitors, who also shop in the town. It is popular with stall-holders and customers. If there are any objectors they will be local shop-keepers. This market is only once a month, so I don't see that objections are rational. If you feel strongly about this, phone Thomas Lane, the Environmental Officer in Chichester on 01243 785166. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Free range and organic meat was well represented by:
UPTON REDHEADS ORGANIC POULTRY, WONSTON, WINCHESTER, HANTS. Free range chickens and good information about them.
CHANCTONBURY GAME, with venison and venison burgers, pidgeons, pheasants.
LOWER ROUNDHURST FARM, HASLEMERE, SURREY. Free range beef.
HARTING FARM, E. HARTING, HANTS, who have their own Southdown lamb and some beautiful sheep skins.
PIG IN A BUN from WESTLANDS FARM, SHEDFIELD
PETWORTH BANGER CO. Very good sausages but quite hard to find out who they were. Some of the most genuine farmers are poor on advertising. There were two cheese stalls, both using professional sellers:
MONASTERY, NETHER STOWEY, SOMERSET and TWINEHAM whom I've listed before.
If I were selling cheese, I'd want someone else to do it for me, but I still feel this is not what farmers' markets are all about.
DAYLANDS FARM, ASHURST, vegetables
VALMORE NURSERY, NEWICK, flowers, both growing and selling their own.
WILDWOOD COPPICE selling their own coppice products and charcoal.
ANNE BROCKHURST, CLOVER COTTAGE, FERNHURST, SURREY selling rugs and skins from her own Shetland and Shetland X sheep. Also clothing spun, dyed and knitted by her. She will spin and knit to order. 01428 653355.
BALLARD'S BREWERY, NYEWOOD, HANTS with local beer
SLINDON BAKERY again had a fine display of bread.
Various local firms sold excellent pies and quiches.
And I bought a crab from SELSEY WILLOWS, who is a fisherman.
There was no fruit and no fruit juice.
NOV. 24.FARNHAM FARMERS' MARKET.
A lot of the same traders as at Petworth, but this time, there were three stalls selling apples, pears and juices. All excellent:
NEAL'S PLACE FARM, CANTERBURY, KENT
FLOWER FARM, GODSTONE, SURREY
RINGDEN FARM, FLIMWELL, E. SUSSEX
Also new to me were:
GARLIC FARM from the ISLE OF WIGHT selling garlic and garlic.
SHOUTS FARM, LINGFIELD, SURREY with “traditionally reared” lamb.
HUNTS HILL FARM, NORMANDY COMMON, GUILDFORD, SURREY, with honey, free-range pork, lamb, beef, chickens and ducks, and free-range eggs.
NEWDIGATE EGGS I was doubtful about. They said free-range on the box and “farm fresh” on the placard. People were queueing up to buy them because they were cheaper.
I have this dilemma again and again: I tend to pass over people who don't say who they are, don't use the words free-range, don't give an address. But some of these may be the most genuine farmers who haven't got round to advertising. If there's a queue, I don't ask them. On the other hand, I also avoid people who try to sell me two for the price of one and people who assume I care more about taste than animal welfare.
There was no shortage of customers in Farnham, in spite of the usual deluge. It would be interesting to know what others go for.
Thanks to all who post and all who read this. Tell me what you think. email@example.com
“As a housewife, I’m furious that I’m being lied to and exploited.” Dot Boag.
Dot has been doing a survey of housewives in her hospice. She finds that 90% of them would buy local food if they could get it.
Dot feels that housewives are used by big business as the excuse for their rapacity, but they are never consulted. Perhaps, if they were consulted, their views could change the face of British farming.
For example, if they knew about the crisis in dairy farming, quite a small number of housewives putting a card in the box of their local supermarket saying they would pay more for local milk could change supermarket policy.
NOV.26. With Dot in mind, I did this in Tesco’s in Petersfield.
NOV. 28In Tesco’s in Cirencester, I found a whole display of “speciality” milks. There were two sorts of Jersey milk, one unhomogenised, there was organic milk and unpasteurised milk and milk from CRAVENDALE, the only named dairy.
This is not exactly what I meant. Fancy milk at more than double the price is making the two tier system stronger, without telling the consumer how intensively the cows are farmed or how the milk is marketed.
I have brooded all week on the fact that salesmen are very quick and farmers very slow to grasp an advertising opportunity. I don’t think we have taken in the scale of the deceit. We are lied to daily by the media, by politicians, by advertisers, and we get used to it. We soon become as incapable of distinguishing lies from truth as the liars themselves.
For example, Asda have toy, crowing, and very free-range hens on the roof of their display of battery eggs. They have a toy cow surrounded by buttercups boosting their cut-price milk sales. Kids love it. As I never tire of saying, we long for contact with the natural world. But this is a phoney substitute for the natural world, designed to stifle questions, not promote them.
What if they knew the reality?
CHELTENHAM FARMERS’ MARKET. GLOS.
Very traditional and well supported, in the Promenade. Several farmers who also go to Stroud were there. New ones included:
BURLEY FIELDS LAKE, LECKHAMPTON. GLOS with “traditional” pork, sausages, bacon, lamb, and chickens
CROFT FARM, ASHLEWORTH, GLOS. Fruit.
DUNTISBOURNE TRADITIONAL MEATS
SCRUBDITCH FARM, CIRENCESTER, GLOS. “Organically fed, free range animals reared naturally without the use of growth promoters.” I haven’t seen their animals, though I mean to. Both their bacon and sausages are very good. They also had pheasants at #2.50 a brace.
FIVE TREES OSTRICH FARM, TRELLECH, MONMOUTHSHIRE WITH LOTS OF OSTRICH PRODUCTS. I don’t know how their ostriches are kept, but I’ll get there one day.
SHURDINGTON APIARIES, GLOS, with honey and wax products.
NORBURY’S NORREST FARM, STORRIDGE, MALVERN, HEREFORDSHIRE
Apples and cider.
CLIVES FRUIT FARM with apples, apple juice and eggs.
ST. ANNE’S VINEYARD, NEWENT, GLOS. With their own wine.
VERZON’S FRUIT FARM, LEDBURY, HEREFORDSHIRE, with fruit and veg, and apple pie.
SUDELEY HILL FARM, SUDELEY, GLOS. “home produced” lamb.
COCKLEFORD TROUT FARM, COWLEY, GLOS, with very good smoked trout pate.
PINKS FRUIT FARM, HENLEY IN ARDEN, WARWICKSHIRE, with fruit syrups.
LIGHTWOOD CHEESE, COTHERIDGE, WORCS. I’ll go there too.
I am also brooding on the misunderstandings that make farmers such an easy target for the purveyors of lies. I only have to use the word farmer and somebody takes offence. This is because there are many different shades of opinion within the farming argument. I have narrowed them, arbitrarily, down to four:
- Intensive farmers who believe their own economic arguments and think globalisation is the only possible future.
- Traditional farmers who have been duped into using methods they hate and feel thoroughly let down by all sides.
- Meat eaters who care about animal welfare and organic farming. To them, farming is part of a whole way of life.
- Vegetarians who believe all farmers are cruel to their animals.
All groups have sub-sections, often at war with one another.
The fact that group 1 is in the ascendant at the moment means that they control the lies. It does not mean they are right. In fact, you only have to step back a little to see that intensive farming is a dead end. And I do mean dead.
Thanks to all who wrote in about animal welfare and why it is so shaming to be associated with it. I understand that conventional farmers don’t want to be associated with animal rights activists, vegans don’t want to be associated with farming at all, industrial farmers don’t want to be associated with hereditaries, hard men don’t want to be associated with anything soft, pacifists don’t want to be associated with politics, powerful people don’t want to be associated with losers, even if they are right.
No wonder truth doesn’t get much of a look-in.
Keep em coming.
LIGHTWOOD CHEESE, WORCESTERSHIRE
Lightwood Farm seems to be getting it right. Their cows are kept to Freedom Food standards. They use all their own milk to make their cheeses on the farm. They also have a shop on the farm where you can taste and buy the cheese. It is excellent. I had their new soft cheese, to be called Chaser. The first batch sold out last week at market. The second batch is delicious and unlike any other soft cheese I know. I also bought Old Gloucester and Lightwood Smoked. There are several more.
GWILLUMS FARM SHOP, BEVERE, WORCS.
Selling genuinely local produce including their own vegetables, free range beef, pork and lamb,
Local fruit, all accurately sourced,
Cheese from LIGHTWOOD and
ANSTEY’S, BROMHALL FARM, WORCESTER. Also their butter,
Milk from COTTESWOLD DAIRY, TEWKWSBURY, GLOS.
Ice cream from BENNETTS, MANOR FARM, LOWER WICK, WORCESTER
Eggs from HOMESTEAD, EVESHAM, WORCS, where they “roam in organically maintained orchards”. It says so on the box. Also from
RADFORD FREE RANGE EGGS, INKBERROW, WORCS
Apple juice [AUMBANK] produced by PERSHORE COLLEGE, WORCS.
SYKES DAIRY, AINLEY, SLAITHWAITE, W. YORKS.
Ainley is perched high on the side of the precipitous Colne Valley, untouched by the entire twentieth century, and it looks as if they’re going to get away with it. The Sykes’s do what all dairy farmers did until recently. They supply their immediate neighbourhood with milk. Their Holstein Friesians graze their fields. They are milked on the farm. The milk is bottled on the farm, and the Sykes’s do a milk round and sell to shops in Slaithwaite. Agro-industry has passed them by. The milk tanker would never make it to Ainley
LONGLEY FARM DAIRY, HOLMFIRTH, W. YORKS
Known nationally for their yoghurt, Longley is a very efficient West Riding mill.
3 levels of conveyor belts whisk pots of yoghurt round the unpeopled building. Belying their super-efficient appearance, Longley still has its own herd of Jersey cows, although they buy in most of their milk. They sell their Jersey cream and butter locally. They have a single wind generator above the factory, and would have had more, but they were refused planning permission. They catered for school visits until Foot and Mouth, but never started again. They are finding life a whole lot easier without them (as who does not? Yet I can’t help feeling they have a duty to education)
HINCHLIFFE’S FARM SHOP, NETHERTON, HUDDERSFIELD. W. YORKS.
In the middle of a battery hen unit, with a dozen butchers behind the counter, Hinchliffe’s is big business. Besides their own meat and their own battery eggs, they sell a range of supermarket food and milk from
COPLEY HOUSE FARM, MELTHAM, W. YORKS
An inspiring day in the Dales. When I was last here, it was a war zone, with road blocks, piles of carcasses in the fields, and the huge machinery of slaughter roaring through the villages. Now the farmers are fighting back, and anyone who thought they could intimidate and starve the hill farmers out will face some lively opposition. There is a new slaughter house at Bainbridge, run by MC INTYRE MEATS
They actually talk about animal welfare, and cater specially for organic farmers and farmers on the Freedom Food Scheme. They also take great trouble to cut the meat to individual farmers, requirements. It did really strike me as a stress-free place.
WENSLEYDALE CREAMERY, HAWES. N. YORKS
The success story of Dales farming. The creamery was bought by Dairy Crest to be closed down, but a workers’ co-operative would not allow this. They bought it back in 1992 and have run it with increasing success ever since. There is now a museum and viewing gallery, a very popular restaurant and a shop where you can taste all their cheeses. AND they’re not expensive. The creamery ensures a living to the dairy farmers of Wensleydale and produces a delicious local cheese.
REDMIRE FARM, BUCKDEN, WHARFEDALE. N. YORKS.
Since the traumas of Foot and Mouth, which raged all round them and made them feel that their animals, so precious and irreplaceable to them, were worthless to the outside world, Julia Horner has started to sell the Horners’ meat direct from the farm. Her boxes of Dalesbred lamb are already popular. They are sold only to customers who come and collect them, so that they can also get “the farm experience.” The Horners are not just selling meat, but a whole way of life which is kind to the land and kind to the animals and preserves an incredibly beautiful landscape.
She is about to start selling their Aberdeen Angus X beef in the same way. Their cattle have the bull with them all the time and rear their own calves naturally, grazing the natural pastures of the tops. The sheep have been in the Horner family for 8 generations. They also have a completely free life.
You can have bed and breakfast at Redmire Farm and I can think of no better way to see the Dales and learn about hill farming.
Industrial farmers may make a quick fortune and offer cheap food in exchange for destroying the planet, but they are not having it all their own way. There are alternatives, and they are becoming easier to find.
Still in the Dales. Still thinking about progress.
We have been brought up on the idea that progress means bigger and faster and richer. But this is a nineteenth century definition of progress. I’m surprised it survived right through the twentieth century.
Progress doesn’t go in a straight line. It goes in spirals.
It is obvious to me as I travel round England that the industrial age is dead. It died some time ago, but we are slow to change our ideas when our security is involved. Of course there’s plenty of industry left. No change is neat and complete. As in a symphony, the new theme is growing up through the old.
The new theme is something like “think global; act local”. In farming, this translates into a synthesis of traditional farming methods (which work) and new technology. For the planet to survive, we need to give back as much as we take out. We do not need to go back to ignorance, isolation, drudgery.
We certainly do not need to see farming in terms of industry, a dodgy model, even in industry’s heyday.
KETTLEWELL VILLAGE STORE illustrates this global/local theme. They sell as much local produce as they can. Eg:
Eggs from CORN CLOSE FARM, LANESHAWBRIDGE,
Bacon from JACK SCAIFE, OAKWORTH,
Milk from TOWN HEAD FARM, GRASSINGTON,
Yoghurt from LITTLE TOWN DAIRY, THORNLEY,
Water from FYLINGDALES
Bread from EARBY
AND in amongst the groceries is a computer for customers to use. The village website
www.kettlewell.info gives local information. Local businesses can remain completely local, yet be connected to anyone anywhere. Wherever you are in the world, you can download a picture of the Dales as a screensaver
JACKSON’S FARM SHOP. CRACOE.
Jacksons have been selling their own sausages in Cracoe for years, but the shop has developed sensationally since I was last here. They still sell their own sausages and they are as good as ever. Now they also sell their own jams and chutneys,
DALESCAPE post cards, (nothing to do with farming but something I always need in the Dales. David Green is one of my very favourite photographers. No one else gets the essential greenness of the Dales like he does.)
Honey from DENHOLME GATE APIARY
Cheese and cakes from WENSLEYDALE CREAMERY
Ice cream from BRYMOR, who have mushroomed recently. I have seen their Jersey cows and eaten their excellent ice cream at JERVAULX , though not this time.
The Jacksons are still expanding. Next comes a tea room/ice-cream parlour.
DRIFFIELD FARMERS’ MARKET. E. YORKS
Very cold day and a lively market, loved by the farmers. It was greatly enlivened by free King Edward chips from A.B. COLEMAN, CHURCH FARM, SPEETON, N.YORKS, who sells only King Edwards. Undoubtedly the best potato.
Free range eggs from SPRINGFIELD FARM, DRIFFIELD
Smoked everything but mainly trout, from YOADWORTH MILL, KIRBYMOORSIDE, N. YORKS www.smokedforyou.co.uk
Organic veg. From BARMSTON ORGANICS, DRIFFIELD, who also sell wholemeal flour, stoneground at BESWICK WATERMILL.
Beef from KELLEYTHORPE ABERDEEN ANGUS, DRIFFIELD
Pork products from EAST RIDING COUNTRY PORK www.eastridingcountrypork.co.uk This is the industrial pig-producing big-business of the East Riding.
Hand raised pork pies from BULLIVANT AND DAUGHTERS, CLAXTON, a small family farm, in another East Riding tradition. I went to see them.
Goat cheese from EASTGATE FARM, RUDSTON, DRIFFIELD. They also cook the most delicious stews and sauces, using only locally sourced ingredients. These will be available at their shop, which opens next weekend:
THE FARM SHOP, 5, RIVERHEAD, DRIFFIELD, (01262 420074)
with 4 main aims: Environmentally friendly production, the highest possible standards of animal welfare, support of local agriculture and businesses, supporting the local community. They will also sell fairly traded tea, coffee, etc. to “support members of struggling agricultural communities in other parts of the world.” They deserve to succeed, and I hope to see their goats.
This is only a small selection of the goodies available at Driffield. Pork and sausages predominate. No fruit or fruit juice. Wonderful Yorkshire baking on all sides.
YORK FARMERS’ MARKET at MURTON AUCTION MART. YORK.
Less attractive than Driffield because it takes place in the freezing concrete pens of the market.
Buffalo mozzarella, hard cheese, meat, sausages and burgers from LANGTHORNE BUFFALOES NORTHALLERTON.
Mohair socks (and they’re lovely) from CALDER VALLEY TROUT AND MOHAIR
All sorts of mushrooms from MILL FARM MUSHROOMS, S. MILFORD.
Free range eggs from L.E. MAY, SOUTH CAVE.
and HAPPY HENS, WESTOW, YORK.
and ROY PLEWS, HAXBY
ORCHARD FRUIT WINE, WETHERBY.
Jersey cream, butter and ice cream from BIRCHFIELD ICE CREAM, SUMMERBRIDGE, HARROGATE.
Walking sticks from BRAMHOPE
Willow crafts from OUT OF THE WOODS, WHITWELL-ON-THE-HILL
Organic potatoes from STRENGTH, BISHOP WALTON
Real ale from MARSTON MOOR BREWERY, KIRK HAMMERTON,
Game from COWARD, THORGANBY
Guaranteed free-range chickens and ducks from ROSEDALE, HORNSEA.
Lots more pork and pork products, mostly not free range, but I went to see one that is:
BULLIVANT AND DAUGHTERS, CLAXTON
Breed their own Berkshires and make the most delicious hand-raised pork pies. They use a local slaughter house, make their own sausages, potted meat and burgers and sell only to their own loyal customers and at farmers’ markets.
My thanks to Anne Bosanquet who showed me the prosperous farming of the Wolds.
Thanks also (completely inadequate) to Mary Critchley, who is closing down Warmwell this week. It is like losing a valued and supportive friend.
This diary evolved out of the horrors of the Foot and Mouth year, which brought home to me how far towards destruction farming had plunged. Warmwell has plotted this plunge, fearlessly opposed iniquity, and given us, the protesters, some sense that we are not alone.
We mourn the passing of Warmwell, but we still have the solidarity that Mary gave us.
WARREN FARM, DYMCHURCH, KENT.
Genuinely free-range, genuinely concerned about animal welfare, genuine Romney Marsh atmosphere of re-used railway carriages at the end of the world. (Genuine is rapidly becoming my favourite adjective.)
Pedigree Hereford cattle suckling their calves on the marsh, Romney Marsh sheep reared naturally, families of Gloucester Old Spot, Saddleback and Tamworth pigs rootling, poultry scratching about, ducks swimming and grazing, Bronze turkeys in full feather. Also a local abattoir and their own butchering. They deserve to succeed at the farmers’ markets of London and they do. They also sell all their meat from the farm plus their own free range eggs – XL, which means they don’t fit in the egg box.
WINDMILL ORCHARD FARM SHOP, WINCHELSEA, E. SUSSEX
Nice roadside (A259) shop with orchards and windmill, selling:
Own apples and pears, local vegetables and meat,
Apple Juice (very good) from DUSKIN FARM, KINGSTON, CANTERBURY
Spices from RYE SPICE CO
Ice cream from WILLETS FARM, BLACKHAM, TUNBRIDGE WELLS.
Yoghurt from NORTHIAM DAIRY, NORTHIAM, E. SUSSEX
Milk and cream from FRAYSLAND DAIRY, HASTINGS, E. SUSSEX
HURSTMONCEUX in E. SUSSEX has two rivals making and selling truggs.
Woodland skills are relevant to this journey, though not everyone would think of them as farm produce. They are part of a sustainable way of using the land and particularly part of the heritage of Sussex, still very much alive.
ROYAL SUSSEX TRUGGS, HURSTMONCEUX
THE TRUGGERY, HURSTMONCEUX
WINCHESTER FARMERS’ MARKET. HANTS
It was cold. It was wet. It was crouded. People were singing carols in the street.
In spite of all that, Winchester is the best market I’ve been to so far in terms of numbers, range and genuineness of farmers. A street and a square full of local produce, often so eagerly sought that it was impossible to see the names on the stalls. Those I got close to included:
DAIRYBARN RARE BREEDS, STOCKBRIDGE, HANTS with free range meat, “sensitively reared and humanely slaughtered”. www.dairybarn.co.uk
PROSPEROUS HOME FARM, HUNGERFORD, BERKS, with Guernsey milk (sold out just as I reached for it), cream, and excellent yoghurt. Good photos of their cows too.
ROSARY GOATS CHEESE, ANDFORD, SALISBURY, WILTS. Some lovely flavoured soft cheeses.
SUNNEYFIELDS ORGANIC VEG www.sunneyfields.co.uk
GREENFIELD HOG ROAST, STOCKBRIDGE, HANTS. Free-range pork both raw and cooked. A hog roast livens up any market, as well as being, I am told, the best way of making money out of meat.
ROSELEA APIARIES, ROMSEY, HANTS. www.the-honey-farm.co.uk
HILL FARM APPLE JUICE, SWANMORE, HANTS
NOAH’S ARK FARM, NEW MILTON, HANTS. Free range chickens and eggs.
BREAMORE BANGERS from the New Forest
ASHMORE FARMHOUSE CHEESE, SALISBURY, WILTS
HIGHCLOSE FARM, HUNGERFORD, BERKS www.thefarmshop.co.uk. Veg.
STARK HOUSE FARM, HEADLEY, BERKS free range Hereford beef and Saddleback pork.
MILL FARM ORGANIC, ISINGTON, ALTON, HANTS. www.millfarmorganic.co.uk
Pedigree South Devons. “Animal welfare is our top priority.” Very good leaflet inviting the public to go and see their farm, which I will do.
LYBURN FARMHOUSE CHEESE, HAMPTWORTH, NEW FOREST.
ASHFORD TROUT FARM, FORDINGBRIDGE, HANTS, with their own fish cakes and fish quiches.
CLOVER BEEF AND LAMB from GRANGE FARM, EMPSHOTT, HANTS.
ISLE OF WIGHT BACON CO. Outdoor pigs
Isle of Wight farmhouse butter from REW VALLEY DAIRIES, HALE COMMON.
FONTHILL WINES, TEFFONT, WILTS
CRANBORNE FARMS Pigs in the woods, and pictures of them.
and my favourite egg place in the whole of England:
KINGS SOMBOURNE FREE RANGE EGGS. HANTS. You leave the money in the front garden. I’ve been going there for years. The hens go down to drink from the river.
SHEEPDROVE ORGANIC FARM, LAMBOURNE, BERKS.
Jason Ball, their Bio-diversity Officer, took a whole afternoon to show me round. It takes that long, and even then, I didn’t see the pigs. It is very efficient, very well-managed, very good on public relations, stiff with good ideas worked out with enthusiasm, and dauntingly successful. Peter Kindersley just can’t help making anything he touches into a commercial success.
All this brilliance was soured for me by finding two chickens who had escaped the day’s slaughter. We put them in a box (unfed and it was freezing) and I worried about them. Of course this can happen, and must often happen in any big operation. (They slaughter 2,000 a day). What really worried me was that no one seemed to care. I then saw the other stages in the chickens’ lives. They arrive as day olds, in batches of 1,000. They have animal behaviourists studying them and working to improve their lot. These improvements include perches just off the ground, conservatories so that they can see the outer world in a controlled temperature, and birdsong and farmyard noises played to them, so that when they go out, the world is no shock to them. The animal behaviourists (from Elm Farm Research) just need to spend more time on the end of their short lives. “They’re going to die anyway so it doesn’t matter” is an industrial attitude, which I hope Sheepdrove will leave behind.
The cattle (Aberdeen Angus X S.Devon) seemed content, in with their calves. They were housed and eating Sheepdrove hay, but they are out all summer.
The Shetland X Cheviot sheep also were well cared-for, some grazing on chickory to enhance their diet. They lamb in February (indoors) and May (outdoors). I hope the Kindersley zeal may find some use for the wool and skins, but that is for the future.
The compost is impressive. They take in supermarket green waste and coffee grounds, garden waste from the local council, horse bedding from local stables and compost the lot with their own manure. It all goes onto their fields, which are still recovering from the onslaught of chemicals before the Kindersleys’ time.
The rotation of cereals and herbal leys is carefully worked out to provide a complete diet for grazing stock.
Wildlife is encouraged right through the farm, with beetle banks, plantations, and bio-diversity corridors. Wild flowers, insects, birds, and small mammals are returning.
They also recycle their own waste water with a reed bed, feeding wildlife pools and a lake. This will cope with water from the conference centre, which is being built. When it is finished, they will be in a position to have school visits and tell the general public about organic farming. It will house a restaurant, and of course, barn owls, which are catered for all over the farm. www.bocn.org
Sheepdrove now has its own butchers shop in Lower Redland Road, Bristol. They also sell at farmers markets and direct to the public.
If the planet survives, Sheepdrove is working out a viable future for farming. I’m in no doubt about that. I just hope that as they succeed, they will be aware of the dangers of being big and powerful.
I learned later that the two escaped chickens had been taken home by one of the workers, fed and kept safe. This encourages me to hope.
The Kindersleys say in their alpha plus literature: “ Nothing gives us so much pleasure as to look out across the countryside we own and know that all the animals and plants, whether wild or domesticated, are SAFE here.”
May that always be so.
With very best wishes to all the farmers who have taken time to welcome me,
SURREY DOCKS FARM
More than a century ago, Jung moved from the country, where he had been brought up, to go to university in Basle. He noticed that people in the city – all of them - were neurotic and he quickly realised that this was because they had lost contact with nature.
He felt that losing contact with nature was, in itself, enough to make people neurotic.
I had the same feeling, differently expressed, when I started Surrey Docks Farm in the 1970’s. The dreadful alienation of people in the abandoned docks wasn’t just the result of unemployment. They were alienated from themselves, eachother, and their surroundings.
When I started to dig the silt and graze my goats and poultry in Surrey Docks, I was surprised by the urgency with which everyone wanted to join in. And joining in made a real difference to their lives. Kids who had only been interested in destruction wanted to make things. People who had never related to anyone or anything started to relate to my animals. The farm grew, mainly not due to my efforts at all, but to all the people who recognised that the farm met some buried need in them.
How could I not realise that it isn’t just the natural world that suffers from our indifference to it? We are also maiming ourselves. We are part of the whole package. People flocked to the farm to tell me that kids think milk comes out of bottles and quote vandalism statistics and sociological theories. They set about using the farm in all sorts of wonderful ways I would never have thought of. Suddenly, I had created an educational resource.
And that was great as far as it went. A few hundred or thousand people in SE London had their lives enriched to some extent. But this was just an isolated pocket. Society was still going the other way. Factory farming was still in the ascendant. The Foot and Mouth year brought home to me how completely industrial farming had subdued the nation and how mindlessly it was accepted.
The farm has come a long way since I first grazed my goats on the scrub of Dog and Duck Passage, Rotherhythe, in 1975. (I told the story of those early years in Docklandscape published by Watkins 1979)
Now, there is a farmyard where the public can meet the animals, luxury animal housing for goats, sheep, pigs, cows, donkeys, poultry, a classroom in the shape of an enchanted forest, (one tree is the history tree) a flat where Daphne the teacher, and John who works on the farm, live with their 2 children and 2 Jack Russells, a forge where Kevin the blacksmith does some very creative ironwork and holds evening classes, a dairy and workshop where Sarah runs a training group, a whole Siegal building housing a cafi, a bee room with inspection hive, a yurt room, and a room where James runs the Green Leaf Scheme for people with learning difficulties to grow vegetables and flowers. The entire site is only 2 acres, densely used. There are fields for grazing, a vegetable patch along the river, a herb garden, a compost area, a duck pond, a wild life patch, at least one yurt (the yurts go out to schools), a willow walk housing the bee hives, a poly-tunnel, an orchard full of geese, and sculpture everywhere. Kevin the sculptor does extremely inventive work with local children collecting grot off the beach and making re-cycled wonders – mainly portraits of the farm’s animals.
The farm is a place that opens up a different world, which most visitors recognise as a vital missing part of themselves.
I want it to do more. (This is my personal ambition.) I want it and other city farms, to make farming and food production part of the curriculum, so that every child has the opportunity to learn about farm animals, to practice crafts connected with them and to have actual contact with live animals.
A start has been made on this.
A scheme called GROWING SCHOOLS (www.growingschools.org.uk), run by the government and the Federation of City Farms (www.farmgarden.org.uk), is beginning to involve inner city schools in growing vegetables and tending animals. So far, this is a gesture of support for the Curry Report. It can be more. I want to see every school child adopt a farm animal, learn about it, and have contact with it. I want everyone to have the opportunity to produce some of their own food.
Dot Boag, who has just died, came to my farm on a wet winter evening. She saw hardly any of it, but still enough to get its message. Dot was an artist and she saw through images. As she scratched the head of a sheep in the dripping barn, she said how vital it is for people to be able to get this close to farm animals. She commissioned a sculpture of a goat from Kevin.
Dot was one of the converted. She didn’t need Surrey Docks Farm, but she recognised its purpose. She inspired me to write this diary. She also said someone should write a book cataloguing the mistakes of the Foot and Mouth year. She believed that if people knew what had gone on (and what still goes on), change must follow.
OXENFORD FARM, ELSTED, SURREY
Mixed farm among splendid monastic remains. It has become a Christmas Tree Farm. This trade, which is extremely popular and efficient, keeps the farm going for the rest of the year. Free range hens and animals in the buildings give the place a lived-in feel, but the serious business is growing Christmas trees. At the moment, they are being sold from a huge monastic barn
THE ENCHANTED FOREST, DUNSFOLD, SUSSEX.
A very enchanted place, where you drop through the overspill veneer of Surrey, into the essential weald: forest and heavy horses (one of whom is being trained to extract the timber in forestry operations), geese, dogs, and Cat Beaumont, who made me a willow laundry basket to fit an awkward shape. Her baskets are lovely as well as practical. At the moment she gets her willow from Somerset, but she’s working on a local supply.
A very happy New Year to all my readers.
I feel increasingly that as long as farming is expected to make money, it will be in trouble. The purpose of farming is to produce food. We all eat, but most of us are totally cut off from the sources of our food. We just buy it. Buying food rather than producing it is a symptom of civilisation.
People who do produce food inevitably produce more than they need, so the surplus is stored, exchanged or sold. This is different from farming in order to make a profit.
I have been wondering how more people in our society could have the opportunity to grow vegetables or tend animals.
WOODCYMRU, IVY HOUSE, DEEP CUTTING, WELSHPOOL, POWYS.
Maureen Preen sells peg looms, weaving sticks and associated ways of using wool. She also teaches spinning, both in her home and demonstrating in schools and at fairs. Maureen taught me to spin and it’s not her fault I’m not producing fine yarn. I was useless at spinning but I got what I wanted from Maureen, which is a love of wool and the ability to use the unusable parts of a fleece to make something that really looks like the sheep. I got a lot more than that from Maureen who isn’t interested in money, charging the absolute minimum for her products and taking a great delight in passing on her skills. It is a whole different system of economics, which suits farming in a way that capitalism does not. Maureen’s lack of interest in profit means she has a whole different perspective on life, which works very well but is completely at odds with the current ethic of growth.
CWMCHWEVRU FARM, LLANAVON FAWR, BUILTH WELLS. POWYS
Run by Lesley Wickham, whom I last saw when Foot and Mouth was closing in on every side. Lesley’s animals managed to survive, thank goodness. Since then, they have flourished. She has Dexter cattle, her own breed of sheep (bred for quality wool for hand spinners), Saddleback pigs, Boer goats, (who eat the rushes and bracken), Welsh cobs, and free range chickens.
Lesley is definitely committed to farming for profit, although profit is not her reason for doing it. She believes that you can run a commercial farm and still treat your animals as individuals. All her animals come up to greet her. They also produce an income. She doesn’t use chemicals and treats her animals homeopathically if they are ill.
Her meat is sold to private customers. She goes to Farmers’ Markets where she sells her own wool, spun at local mills (Lampeter and Builth Wells), woven into rugs and throws, knitted (both by hand and machine by Lesley) and locally cured sheep skins. She also makes time to make pots, which go on the same stall. As if all this wasn’t enough, Lesley also runs small-holding courses, so anyone can learn her skills and, if they have the energy and dedication, be as successful as she is.
Both Lesley and Maureen, though they have opposite attitudes to money, are instinctively committed to contributing to a larger plan in which every person and animal has a vital part.
PENGRAEGOCH FARM, LLANGADOG, LLANDOVERY.
Ruth Watkins also starts with the aim of making the world a better place.
She farms sheep and cattle on the Brecon Beacons .She is a virologist, recently retired to nurture a bit of landscape back to health. This includes farming. The health of the land and of her animals is her first priority. Her soil is naturally poor and she is having trouble reconciling organic principles with her scientific knowledge.
Ruth intends to have school visits. Her farm is rich in natural teaching material, including river and wetland, woodland and hillside, as well as her hefted Brecknock Cheviot sheep, Welsh cattle and English long-horns..
PEN-ISAR-LLAN FARM SHOP, LLANIBLODWEL, OSWESTRY.
Mair Williams showed me the roots they grow, which are impressively diverse and healthy. They have five acres of mixed vegetables and five acres of potatoes. They also sell eggs from their own free range hens, milk from
NEW BARNS FARM, TREFONEN, OSWESTRY,
Yoghurt from THE VILLAGE DAIRY, LLANNEFYDD, DENBIGH,
Local meat, preserves, cheese.
They sell at Welshpool and Oswestry Farmers’ Markets.
MILL LANE FARM, KIRTLINGTON, OXON
Jane Fanner-Hoskin runs a flourishing small-holding, with 2 Jersey cows and their calves, her own vegetables, free-range hens, and 2 Dartmoor ponies who do weddings. She makes an excellent farmhouse cheese as well as butter, ice-cream, cakes and bread, jams and pickles, wine and cordials. She sells produce to passing boaters on the S. Oxford canal and is planning to open the
MILL LANE TEA ROOMS and offer free-range breakfasts. She is considering feeding people and asking them to contribute what they think the meal is worth.
(She has no money at all. This is a new economic theory, not hobby farming.)
Jane has had a brilliant idea: The Village Farm
People living in the same village (eg Kirtlington, which has become a commuter village) would keep a few animals and work an allotment jointly. This would mean tasks and produce could be shared. Villagers would produce their own milk, butter, cheese, eggs, vegetables, meat. They would have contact with the animals at all stages of their lives. They would buy shares in the farm, which they could sell if they left the village.
I can hear, and invent, the objections, based on a realistic assessment of human nature, but starting a city farm seemed much more outrageous at the time. The time just happened to be right.
FOXBURY FARM SHOP, BURFORD, OXON.
Own butchery selling own lamb, beef, pork. Also bacon and sausages.
ANDERSEY FARM FREE RANGE EGGS, LOCKINGE
BENSON’S APPLE JUICE, SHERBORNE, GLOS. (Excellent)
Own fresh and frozen sweet and meat pies.
Milk from HYDE FARM DAIRY, CHELTENHAM, GLOS.
Jersey cream and clotted cream from UPPER NORTON FARM, CHURCH HANBOROUGH, OXON. Also “OXFORDSHIRE BUTTER”
Frozen fruit and veg.
Wholemeal flour from MATTHEWS MILL, SHIPTON UNDER WYCHWOOD.
BENNETT’S ICE CREAM (Worcester)
FREEMANS FREE RANGE CHICKENS.
Potato crisps from JONATHAN CRISP, EYNSHAM, OXON.
The Marches, more than most areas, retain a traditional outlook on food. There are supermarkets and fast food outlets, but they have not swamped the local butchers, greengrocers, bakers, pork pies and cheeses. The creative mixture of Welsh and English is peculiarly resistant to takeover. It’s as though the Welsh and English have spent so long fighting eachother that, when there is a common enemy, they can instantly pool their experience and make the most of their strengths. They have much to offer.
BERGHILL FARM, WHITTINGTON, OSWESTRY, SHROPSHIRE
Jamie Ward has free range pigs and a cutting room. He is planning to expand this to become a small slaughter house, killing pigs and lambs. Planning permission is through and the idea is to open in about 3 months, though Jamie is philosophical about delays.
He also organises Oswestry Farmers’ market and sells his own pork and pork products there and at Welshpool. He sells to local butchers and has private customers too. He has recently started doing hog roasts.
NEW BARNS FARM, TREFONEN, OSWESTRY have about 80 Freisian cows, do all their own dairywork and sell their milk to local shops.
KNOLTON FARMHOUSE CHEESE, OVERTON ON DEE, WREXHAM. CLWYD dates back to the eighteenth century, when Cheshire cheese reached London on the Shropshire Union Canal. Transport has speeded up, but the method of cheesemaking is essentially the same. Milk is collected from local farms.
H. S. BOURNE CHESHIRE CHEESE. THE BANK, MALPAS, CHESHIRE. www.hsbourne.co.uk Hand made Cheshire cheese from their own milk.
LLAETH Y LLAN, LLANEFYDD, DENBIGH. www.villagedairy.com Luxury yoghurt, many made with liqueurs.
MAYNARDS FARM, WESTON UNDER REDCASTLE www.maynardsfarm.co.uk “The Rolls Royce of dry cured bacon”
MONKTON FARM SHOP, OKLE PYCHARD, HEREFORD.
Aiming at the Garden Centre image, but still rich in local producers including:
Free range hen and duck eggs from F.R. WYNNE, HOPE UNDER DINMORE
Own delicious apple juice
Yoghurt from THE DAIRY HOUSE, WEOBLEY, HEREFORDSHIRE
LIGHTWOOD CHEESE and butter (Worcestershire)
MONKLAND CHEESE, PLECK FARM, MONKLAND, LEOMINSTER.
Milk from BARTONSHAM FARM, HEREFORD
LUDLOW, that great haven local food, still teems with proper shops selling real food, including (among the old)
MARCHES QUALITY MEAT, www.marchesmeat.co.uk
CARTERS (Pork Pie of the Marches)
D. W. WALL (The Ludlow Sausage)
REG MARTIN (Game)
And among the new:
THE MOUSETRAP, selling every sort of Welsh and English cheese, including their own: MONKLAND.
THE DELI IN THE SQUARE with local specialities.
THE PLECK, MONKLAND, LEOMINSTER, HEREFORDSHIRE
Shop and cafi where you can see Little Herefordshire cheese being made. Karen and Mark Hindle buy their milk from local farmers, make all their cheese on the premises and sell it in their own shops in Leominster, Hereford and Ludlow. You can also have a Little Hereford Ploughman’s on the spot.
THE DAIRY HOUSE, WEOBLEY, HEREFORDSHIRE.
Pru Lloyd makes yoghurt, crhme fraiche, mature cheddar, sumptuous cheesecakes from local milk. She has four sources for the milk, one organic, and you can go and see the cows. Jersey cream is about to be added to her products
TYRELLS HALL, STRETFORD, HEREFORDSHIRE. www.tyrrellspotatochips.co.uk
Since I started this diary, I have been finding Tyrrell’s crisps in farm shops all over the country. At last I am in their home country and I find I know it well. Their machinery is all over the fields of Stretford, where they have been growing potatoes for 20 years. Now they deep fry, pack and market them as well. They are starting to crisp other vegetables too. They deserve their success.
My thanks to Lou Kellett for her efficient virtual tour of the Oswestry area. I am only sorry I did not have enough time in the Marches. I’ll be back in May, if not before.
THE REAL MEAT COMPANY , CALNE, WILTS. www.realmeat.co.uk
“was set up by people who believe meat can be produce in a caring, compassionate way- for those who want the best or not at all”. Richard Guy is the first farmer I’ve come across who does not shun publicity. He is keen on “total transparency” about every aspect of the way his meat is produced. You can have a complete list of his farmers. You can visit the abattoirs. “We have turned priorities for livestock rearing on their head”, he says modestly.
I keep hearing that housewives are the power behind the crimes committed by agro-industrialists and supermarkets. How can you be the power behind something you know nothing about? Silly question. But in this case, housewives are not so much a power as a pawn. Do we need a “Housewives Unite” website?
BRADFORD ON AVON FARMERS’ MARKET. WILTS.
Some old friends and several new. Bradford-on-Avon is the perfect place for this sort of market (unless the river is flooding): beautiful, friendly, good parking and dog-walking. The World Trade Organisation seems planets away.
Veg from V&P COLLINS, FARM SHOP, BROMHAM, CHIPPENHAM, WILTS
Trout, smoked trout, pate, from MERE FISH FARM, WARMINSTER, WILTS.
Apple juice, cider, cider vinegar from K.G. CONSULTANTS, COMPTON DANDO.
Wine and liqueurs from FONTHILL WINES, TEFFONT, WILTS who have just bought up NEW FOREST WINES and TEST VALLEY WINES and were also selling butter and cheese from their neighbour WYKE FARMS, TEFFONT, who have their own cows and do their own dairy work.
Smoked goodies of all sorts from WILTSHIRE SMOKERY, SUTTON VERNEY.
Pork and pork products from BOYTON FARM www.boytonfarm.co.uk who keep Tamworths who play a part in the cycle of their coppicing. Their website is well worth a visit. I haven’t seen their farm yet.
Organic and free-range beef and lamb from MARSHFIELD www.marshfieldorganic.com (under construction)
Mushrooms from DORSET DOWN, SHERBORNE. (Very good fact-sheet.)
Organic chickens from WONSTON FARM
Trout and watercress from PURELY ORGANIC
Eggs and all meat from CEDAR WALK RARE BREEDS, CANNINGTON SOMERSET. www.cedarwalk-rarebreeds.co.uk Very interesting website, including a discussion on the state of British agriculture. I hope to see them soon.
SOUTHSEA FARMERS’ MARKET. HANTS
I thought: this resistance movement is so resilient partly because farmers are resilient and partly because the relentless scorched earth policy of agri-business actually breeds resilience. In the brain-washed first world, we need a cause to fight for and this is a good one. Scorched earth pushes up some extraordinary shoots.
Very rich in local cheeses. I knew all but one. The ones I know are all good:
ASHMORE (farmhouse cheese from CRANBORNE CHASE, SALISBURY area)
(the Parmisan-style winner. I buy it whenever I see it)
LYBURN www.lyburncheese.co.uk from the New Forest
The one I didn’t is LOOSEHANGER CHEESES, WHITESHOOT, WILTS made from Ayreshire milk (not their own, but they know and relief-milk the cows)
They make a Dutch-style cheese, learned at Lyburn, with various flavours. They bought up the equipment from dairies closed down by Dairy Crest. They sell to local shops and farmers’ markets. Their blue cheese is eagerly awaited.
SUNNYFIELDS ORGANIC FARM, TOTTON, HANTS. www.sunnyfields.co.uk
Family business, very popular, growing masses of vegetables and delivering them locally.
Two excellent bakers: SLINDON and LONG CRICHEL (organic bread baked in a wood fired oven)
Pork, bacon, sausages, from GREENFIELD PORK PRODUCTS, ANDOVER, HANTS “Our aim is to produce happy pigs in a stress-free environment.” Next door was LEWREY’S, from BOTLEY, ANDOVER, selling sausages and doing a hog roast from GREENFIELD pork, deservedly pulling the crowds
The ISLE OF WIGHT contributed CALBOURNE CLASSICS cakes and sweets www.calbourneclassics.co.uk
ISLE OF WIGHT bacon, butter and garlic
FARMSIDE NURSERIES, LOCKERLEY, HANTS grow all their own plants and sell only at farmers’ markets. The cyclamen I bought is healthy and not over-forced.
PETER MUSHROOMS, SLEAFORD, HANTS. www.petermushrooms.co.uk
Pork, sausages and watercress from
MANOR FARM SHOP, SHERFIELD ENGLISH, ROMSEY, HANTS
(I can’t find them in Sherfield English.
HAMPSHIRE GAME CO. POLLARDS FARM, CLANVILLE, HANTS.
HOLT FARM SHOP, WIMBORNE, DORSET, for free range Hereford beef.
Sainsbury’s in Liphook. “Pork from Suffolk.” “Lamb from Wales.” “Beef from Scotland.” I asked “How do I know it’s really from Suffolk?” The man behind the meat counter looked down and blushed.
HOCKEY’S FARM SHOP, NEW FOREST, HANTS.
“Our animals’ welfare and our customers’ healthy diet are of equal importance to us.” Their animals certainly look content. They sell their own beef and lamb and have their own butchery. They make sausages and burgers from traceable pigs, and sell their own pies, both fresh and frozen.
They also have a cafi and make a visit to their farm a cheering occasion.
LYBURN CHEESE, HEMPTWORTH, HANTS. www.lyburncheese.co.uk (a very informative website which also gives the outsider an insight into growing organic vegetables.)
Judy Smales showed me their cows and their cheesemaking and I ate generous portions of all their cheeses. They milk about 230 pedigree Holstein-Friesians and their cheesemaking is expanding all the time. They also sell milk to WATSON’S independent dairy, who retail milk in London as well as locally.
The cheese is delicious. I specially liked Lyburn Mature, which is something like Oude Gouda, one of my very favourite cheeses. If matured still further, which they plan to do, it will be like Old Amsterdam, an all-time great cheese.
Lyburn have now designed their own cheese presses, which are being made for them in France, so their cheese will be unique and easily recognisable. They are expanding their ripening rooms.
In season, they sell their own organic veg. and rhubarb, which also go to Waitrose and Farmaround, a company distributing organic boxes in London.
Lyburn is a family business. When it was obvious that dairy farming was being squeezed out of existence, Mike and Judy Smales thought sideways, because their sons wanted to go into farming. Now, it is run very happily by the whole family. They have free-range dogs, which tells me a lot about a farm.
I wonder how we can show housewives the world of Lyburn contrasted with industrial cheesemaking. I am still convinced that it is education that is lacking. The Prince of Wales is certainly doing his bit this week. We shouldn’t leave it all to him.
If I am leaving out interesting farms in your area, please let me know. I know this will never be a complete record, but I would like to include all I can.
“Theological” is a striking word to apply to an argument about farming. It was used to describe one approach to organic farming (and I suppose to take an oblique pot at the Prince of Wales) by Martin Haworth, Policy Director of the NFU. He is talking of people who think that organic farming is “intrinsically better for the environment, for the consumer, for the farmer”, ie me, among others.
He thinks “there is a market for this type of production (organic food) and it makes sense to fill it, but it must be market led.” With breath-taking hypocrisy, he adds piously:
“You can’t dictate what people produce.”
The NFU seem to me to do little else.
And what is all this market-led claptrap when you get down to it? People buy what they are told to buy by advertisers, choosing from what is available.
Which brings me neatly back to education.
I am looking for a way of getting the free-range/organic message across to the general public. It doesn’t have to be a theological way, though obviously it is a much wider message than one that simply appeals to people’s greed.
STAY ON A FARM www.farmstayuk.co.uk had a stall on Winchester Farmers’ Market. This is the traditional way of finding out about farming. Their brochure is full of mistakes, but the website has much valuable information. On a rough estimate, I would say about > of the farms listed are working farms.
LECKFORD ESTATE, STOCKBRIDGE, HANTS.
This is John Spedan Lewis’s estate, still owned and run by the company. (The middle name is included when you’re talking about the individual as opposed to the company.) They grow apples, pears, mushrooms and potatoes for their supermarket, Waitrose, and you can also buy them, and their apple juice, from the farm shop. The fruit is huge, tasteless and perfect-looking, supermarket style, though you can also buy the smaller Waitrose-rejects here.
The estate also is huge and well manicured. There is much heavy machinery and no boast that the produce is organic. I did see the chicken housing in the distance (looking remarkably like the holiday housing for John Lewis ‘partners’), but so far, my requests for more information have not been answered.
Also part of the estate is LONGSTOCK PARK NURSERY www.longstockparknursery.co.uk .
I could be wrong, and I hope to know more, but I feel that this whole enterprise, set up as a socialist empire, has been taken over by market forces. Maybe big business with a kind face can work. I have yet to be convinced. But if it can, it will be only at the cost of eternal vigilance. This looks to me like efficient industrial farming.
These are “theological” arguments.
We get confused and angry so easily when anyone mentions god or the soul. Perhaps it’s worth defining “theological”.
“God” is shorthand for “important things that don’t go into words.” Religions are languages, particularly misunderstood because they are dealing with non-verbal realities. So I think Martin Haworth is right and organic farming is more than a method of efficient food production. It’s up to us to define what more.
PROSPEROUS HOME FARM, HUNGERFORD, BERKS
The home of Jethro Tull, founding great-grandfather of agro-industry. He believed in prosperity, as Ben Gill now believes in profitability. When living at Prosperous Farm, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, Jethro Tull begrudged his labourers’ wages so passionately that he invented the seed drill. It was a brilliant idea, which caught on very slowly. It was another 200 years before agricultural machinery really took off. I wonder if it will take as long for the pendulum to swing the other way.
I don’t mean back into the dark ages of drudgery and cruelty. There’s nothing wrong with technology in itself. It is the way we use it to extract the maximum profit from the land and put the minimum back that is destructive.
At Prosperous Farm now, they don’t do that. It is in the front line of progress once again.
They milk 200 Guernsey cows and sell their gorgeous milk, cream and yoghurt from the farm. You can help yourself and leave your money at any time. All dairywork is done on the farm.
I can’t feel Jethro Tull would have approved. Or would he?
Dairy farming is under immense pressure in this country at the moment. To anyone who cared only about profitability, it would not be seen as a good bet. Yet that is a short-term view. When intensive dairy farming has run itself into the ground, we will still need milk. A beautifully managed herd producing a superb product and selling it locally may well turn out to be the future. Perhaps we are too caught up in the misery of today to see it.
HIGHCLOSE FARM SHOP, A4, near HUNGERFORD. www.thefarmshop.co.uk
The website isn’t available at the moment, but the shop, in a purpose-built, centrally-heated barn flourishes, surrounded by well-tended PYO fields. There’s a cafi too.
They are not very good at saying where their vegetables, fruit or cheese come from. It would help to know more.
PROSPEROUS cream and yoghurt
DAIRY BARN RARE BREEDS, STOCKBRIDGE, free range meat.
DEWS MEADOW FARM, E. HANNEY, OXON. Sausages, bacon, black pudding.
JAMES WHITE fruit juices from Suffolk
ST. PETER’S BREWERY beers, also from Suffolk.
ANDERSEY FARM, LOCKINGE, OXON. Free range eggs (expensive but genuine)
Very good quiches sold in the cafi and to take away.
FARMERS’ MARKET in CHIPPENHAM, WILTS.
Chippenham seems to me a depressed place. The market was depressed too, and very cold. Farms new to me who had braved the weather were:
SANDRIDGE FARM, LYNEHAM, WILTS with delicious free range beef, free range chicken and eggs.
DOWNLAND PIGS, LACOCK. WILTS with a good range of sausages and photos of outdoor pigs
HIGHGATE FARMHOUSE, WOOTTON BASSETT, WILTS with apple juice and chutneys
BOYTON FARM, BOYTON, WILTS. www.boytonfarm.co.uk Caroline Wheatley- Hubbard took time off from selling boars for export to Holland, cutting meat, fronting the farm, to show me the Tamworths (the oldest herd in the country). The pigs have a good life on top of the downs, deeply bedded at this time of year, in straw produced on the farm. The Wheatley -Hubbards grow and mill their own feed (buying in only fish meal and soya). The pigs also get a chance to rootle in hazel coppices. The farm has its own cutting room, and usually, its own butcher. All their meat is sold from the farm and at farmers’ markets.
Caroline, who has been a teacher, would be more than happy to have school visits. She can arrange guided tours for groups, and lay on a hog roast as well.
BRISTOL FARMERS’ MARKET
Some interesting new contacts, notably:
RADFORD MILL FARM, TIMSBURY, BATH. www.radfordmill.co.uk
Selling organic vegetables, dairy products and delicatessen.
DRUID HOME FARM, STANTON DREW, SOMERSET with organic vegetables and their own free range eggs.
TOWER FARMS, LYDIARD ST. LAWRENCE, SOMERSET, with butter, cheese and clotted cream from their own cows.
MOORLAND FARM SHOP, AXBRIDGE, homebred beef and Ryland rugs.
HAND-PICKED SHELLFISH FROM DORSET
COMMON LOAF BAKERY, DUNKESWELL, DEVON. www.commonloaf.com
This website represents all that people fear about a “theological” approach to farming but if you go along with my theory that religions are only languages, there’s nothing to fear.
They make good bread as well.
FROCESTER FAYRE, FROCESTER GLOS.
Genuine farm shop on a working farm, with purpose-built cutting room and the delicious smell of pies being made. They sell their own meat (all free-range), pies and frozen dishes. They also sell
GODSELL’S CHEESE, LEONARD STANLEY, GLOS.
WOODLANDS FARM YOGHURT, CHEDWORTH, GLOS.
BATH FARMERS’ MARKET
These West Country markets are quite small compared with East Anglia, the South and the East Riding, but what they lack in quantity, they certainly make up in quality.
BATH ORGANIC FARMS, WESTON, BATH www.bathorganicfarms.co.uk
A method of selling rather than an individual farm, they produce a very sensible brochure bearing the dreaded name of Jonathan Dimbleby.
WESTWOOD FARM, COLERNE, WILTS. Organic vegetables, free range duck and hen eggs, chutneys and preserves.
BATH CHEESE, PARK FARM, KELSTON, BATH. www.parkfarm.co.uk
Cheese made on the farm from their own Freisian cows, kept organically.
A square camembert-type, a vignotte-type and a creamy blue. All three amazingly good, which made me think it’s time we stopped thinking of our cheeses in terms of other nations. Cheddar is a wonderful cheese (not represented at this market) but it is not the only cheese from Somerset. Bath cheese claims to have been going since 1801 and I only heard of it today.
CHRIS RICH, BATHEASTON, Organic fruit and veg.
SANDRIDGE FARMHOUSE BACON, BROMHAM, WILTS. Doing a delicious bacon butty, and they have a farm shop. ? a different Sandridge from the one at Chippenham? I’ll find out when I go there.
I also made two really interesting contacts at CHIPPING SODBURY FARMERS’ MARKET:
AVALON FRUIT FARMS, GREET, GLOS. Who produce apple juice, cider and perry. They also have free range hens from WARREN PARK FARM TODDINGTON, keeping their orchards free of pests. They keep sheep and pigs organically too.
BARTON END FARM, CAMBRIDGE, GLOS, home of the Langland herd of Large Black Pigs. This rare breed graze outdoors all the year round and are “loved throughout their lives” their proud owner told me. The Acremans have been keeping their bloodlines going for eighty years and are interested to find that big commercial breeders now want their boars. You can order and collect their pork from the farm 01453 890200 (evenings).
The more I see of real farmers producing and selling real food to real customers, the more I think we are at the beginning of a revolution.
Jethro Tull started a pendulum swinging. Most of the revolution that began in his time was healthy and inevitable. 300 years later, the pendulum has reached the unstable top its swing and started to push back different boundaries.
That’s not a terribly good analogy is it?
WARREN PARK FARM, TODDINGTON, GLOS.
An abandoned fruit farm, whose current owner has divided it into plots inhabited by travellers. At least two have been painstakingly cultivated and reached organic status.
JIM grows organic vegetables and has free-range (really free) hens. He sells through veggie boxes and at Farmers’ Markets. His part of the old orchards is mainly plums.
CARLOS sells fruit juice under the name of AVALON. With his partner TREVOR, who also has a plot, he has pruned the old trees (some as much as 100 years old) and planted new ones. They press the fruit on a nearby industrial estate. They press other people’s fruit too. They also grow organic soft fruit. Carlos has just got his organic certificate today.
Carlos would like to develop the PYO potential of this glorious site. He would like to invite the public in to sit in the orchards and enjoy the spectacular view. He would like pupils from his children’s school to come and learn about farming. He is struck by the helpless ignorance of children, even in Winchcombe, who have never seen a cow. These are not just dreams. He and Trevor have done so much in two years to turn a redundant orchard into a going concern, there is no reason why they shouldn’t do the next bit. Problems like insurance and loos are a challenge to them, not an insuperable objection.
Opposition, inevitably, comes from neighbours, who see the site as untidy, and the landlord, who wants to turn it into a housing estate. The landlord’s immediate idea is to open an organic restaurant, which would fit in very well with Carlos and Jim’s work.
Along with more than a million others, I went on the peace march in London. I was representing another 30 people who couldn’t go but are against this war. If most other people were doing the same, that’s quite a few people. There were hundreds of groups from all over the country and many inventive individual slogans. One that appealed to me was: WAR IS TERRORISM WITH A BIGGER BUDGET.
Carlos was marching, with his family.
From my experience of the Foot and Mouth year, I know now that you can have all the good arguments, you can have scientific backing, you can have right on your side, but if your cause does not fit in with some hidden economic plan, you will not get a hearing.
I fear this is true for Stop The War protesters.
I only hope it will not be true for Carlos.
LOSELEY PARK, GODALMING, SURREY.
Loseley is right in the commuter belt of Surrey, yet remarkably unchanged since Tudor times, when the house was built. When I first visited it, (maybe thirty years ago) the famous Jersey cows were winding through the deep-cut lanes at milking time. It could just as easily have been 130 years ago. Then, one of the More-Molyneux’s had already had the brilliant idea of using all their milk on the farm to make ice-cream with the Jersey cream and yoghurt with the skimmed milk. Both were very good. Loseley became an early and huge success for chemical-free, local produce.
The scale of the success was also the problem. Loseley ice-cream and yoghurt appeared in supermarkets. Demand was insatiable. They had to start buying in milk. Then they sold out to a big commercial creamery.
I next visited Loseley about five years ago. They still had the Jersey herd (looking to me rather sweated), which still produced half the milk for Loseley products. They were also starting a teaching farm and running tractor trips to it from the house. Farming education appeared to be the next step. With the old farm buildings, the Jersey herd, and a collection of other breeds, they were in an excellent position to do the next generation a bit of good.
Today, all that has gone. Loseley seems a forlorn victim of its own success.
This is a real problem in a world where success is measured in terms of profit and productivity. You have to go on expanding until you explode.
(Unfairly, I haven’t mentioned the high-class bakery and catering firm, which appear to be the current Loseley success story. Well, I have now, but this is about farming, so I leave it to someone else to weave this latest success into the whole Loseley story.)
LECKFORD ESTATE & LONGSTOCK NURSERY, STOCKBRIDGE, HANTS.
The John Lewis Partnership is very relevant to this theme of how to succeed and keep on succeeding. If you’re working with the land, it’s a theme that keeps cropping up. Boom and bust is no good for farming. So how do John Lewis manage it? I went into the vast packing shed at Leckford, where apples are sorted on an industrial scale. You ring a bell and one of the partners stops sorting apples and comes to take your money. I asked her if it was fun being a partner. Fun was clearly not the right word. You get a discount and a chance to go on trips. Otherwise, it’s like any other factory job, but colder.
John Spedan Lewis was a great innovator with his roots in Victorian philanthropy. He believed that you can make a huge commercial success and still be fair to workers, producers and customers. Fairness was the virtue he most valued. Waitrose have now sent me two glossy booklets full of information about him and the company, so I should know more.
My gut-feeling is still anti-big-business, but I do see that supermarkets are a fact of life and it’s better to have a fair supermarket like Waitrose than an unfair supermarket like Asda. There is a lot in the booklets about organic produce and animal welfare. The title of one is “The environment is everyone’s responsibility”. Yet the Leckford estate is a big industrial farm. The partners are still workers. I get the feeling that what was a genuinely progressive idea in the 1920’s has become a front to hide behind. I’d really like someone to tell me I’m wrong.
DAIRYBARN FARMSHOP, N. HOUGHTON, STOCKBRIDGE, HANTS.
Gleamingly healthy chickens peck around outside. There is a board with news of animal births. The shop has undyed woollen garments from local rare-breed sheep from
SOMBORNE SHETLANDS, ACRE COTTAGE, STOCKBRIDGE, HANTS. (not only Shetlands. She also sells knitting wool.)
These caught my eye first, but really, it’s all about meat. They have their own butcher preparing and selling their own rare-breed beef, lamb, pork, sausages, chicken. They sell more than they produce, so neighbours with rare breeds also sell through them. They guarantee that they know the farms and can vouch for the animals having a happy life. Certainly, their own animals do. I saw Gloucester Old Spot pigs with their piglets. A Belted Galloway cow had just calved.
They also sell their own eggs, local organic vegetables, and
Ice cream from MEADOW COTTAGE, HEADLEY
Apple juice from OAKWOOD FARM, ROBERTSBRIDGE, SUSSEX.
Organic bread from WINCHESTER BAKERY and
Organic flour from DOVE’S MILL HUNGERFORD, BERKS and
WESSEX MILL, WANTAGE, BERKS
Milk and Jersey cream from IVY HOUSE FARM, BECKINGTON, BATH
Yoghurt from PROSPEROUS FARM, HUNGERFORD, BERKS.
Several cheeses, made in N. Houghton, but sold to them through a wholesaler.
Sheep cheese from WIELDWOOD, WIELD, ALRESFORD, HANTS.
I have to admit that I find Dairybarn more attractive than Waitrose, but this sort of shopping would only work if every village had a dairybarn (and perhaps a village farm).
BAIRD’S FARM SHOP, CLIMPING, SUSSEX
A farm shop selling, almost exclusively, intensively farmed produce.
Mostly, they don’t claim that it is free-range or organic.
They have their own butchery and bakery, both very cheap and popular.
They also sell their own jams and chutneys,
Eggs from KINGSWOOD “laid in Sussex.” Also from ROOKERY FARM, which do claim to be free-range. (I passed the extensive battery sheds of a Rookery Farm, which doesn’t prove they don’t have free-range hens somewhere else)
They do sell independent milk from OLD PLACE FARM DAIRY, ANGMERING. I don’t know how the cows are kept.
I can’t help feeling there is an element of deception in all this. The shop is certainly modelled on, and undercutting, the sort of farm shop that only sells organic and free range food. The “farm-fresh”, “farm-assured”, “laid in Sussex”, jargon is there to discourage questions.
On the other hand, it proves that farm shops work. It’s up to us, the customers, to ask the questions.
It’s also a healthy warning to the niche market. Customers who buy things because they are more expensive are just as uninformed as customers who ignore animal welfare and human health in a quest for the best bargain. I often feel uncomfortable justifying the price of some (not all) organic food.
This is part of the vague unease I feel about Waitrose. They do a lot of good things, but they also trade on snobbery. An atmosphere of restrained elegance is not the same thing as fairness.
Am I being unfair?
I have been given a publication called Farmtalk, which I’m sure most farmers get. It looks like helpful advice to farmers about such matters as Summer Dairy Feeds, Coccidiosis and its Control, Pheasant Rearing, etc. In fact it’s an advertisement for Countrywide (“enriching country life”) Products. www.countrywideweb.co.uk
It is one of many such publications and nothing new, but I am struck by the subtlety and power of this sort of advertising. One of the idyllic pictures on the front shows a traditional farmhouse in a well-wooded, patchwork landscape: a townee’s idealised view of “the countryside”. It looks very much like a picture used a couple of years ago by the Crop Protection Association. www.cropprotection.org.uk . So I was moved to look up their website. When I came across them in 2001, the Crop Protection Association were sponsoring GM crops. Now all mention of GM has been erased from their website and they are being extremely conciliatory, if not wheedling.
Before we start wheedling, I think we need to define our terms. Crop protection is poisoning everything in a field except the one crop you are growing. The Crop Protection Association exists to protect the interests of the purveyors of agricultural chemicals.
Their site is worth a visit, not least for its sensational u-turn.
I am starting a Dictionary of Deception.
Contributions welcomed. They don’t have to be words already in existence like modelling. Words like modulation, which were invented for the purpose of deception will also qualify.
Protect (which actually has a history of deception)
To intimidate, then bribe into a sense of false security, subdue, control, terrorise.
I feel, looking at Farmtalk, that farmers have been considered fair game for this sort of attack for half a century. The cancerous growth of agro-industry is not the fault of farmers, but of the drug companies and chemical companies, who have deliberately exploited them.
ELM FARM, HAMSTEAD MARSHALL, BERKS, www.efrc.com
Home of ELM FARM RESEARCH, who pioneer research into organic farming.
I met Judith Towers, who runs their education department. As she said, they are well-known internationally but very little known down the road in Newbury.
I walked their farm trail, which is fairly orthodox sub-downland. They are replanting, coppicing, and bush-whacking hedges. The beef herd and ewes were in. In summer, there are informative boards telling you what crops are being tested (they grow only fodder for their own animals) but I made it up as I went along. From their literature as much as from what I saw, I get the impression that lots is going on, most of all and probably most importantly, on the public relations front.
Lawrence Woodward has written some inspired papers. “Can organic farming feed the world?” says exactly what I always answer instinctively (Drug barons don’t feed the world now, or even try to. Why not give organic farming a chance?) with helpful scientific back-up.
Judith is amazingly, doing all the things I was doing in inner London thirty years ago, but again, with scientific back-up. To join a group, visit the farm, arrange a school visit, buy a teachers’ information pack, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To convince people, and even governments, you have to go round the long way of proving scientifically what you already know instinctively.
It is heartening to see Elm Farm meticulously doing this.
WINDSOR FARM SHOP, OLD WINDSOR, BERKS
www.windsorfarmshop.co.uk (Website not constructed yet)
So discreet as to be hard to find. Selling produce from the royal estates. Brand name: ROYAL FARMS.
There is a small corner for DUCHY ORIGINALS. The rest is not organic and does not pretend to be. I felt farming at Windsor, though hemmed in by traffic and under a flight path to Heathrow, is rooted in traditions which pre-date chemical farming. Quibbles about exactly what miracles of modern science are acceptable are less important if basic principles of welfare and health are part of the culture.
The meat counter (Hampshire Down lamb, Sussex beef, venison, chicken, pork, sausages, and more) has labels saying “Slaughtered in Farnborough. Cut in Windsor. Born and reared on the Crown Estate.” I would like to know more, but it’s a good start.
The meat is not unduly expensive.
Luxury goods like chocolates are expensive, but most basic items are not. Both butter and yoghurt are cheaper than in supermarkets.
Milk, both Jersey and Ayrshire from WINDSOR FARM
Butter from NORTH LEAZE FARM & LONGMAN FARMHOUSE, N. CADBURY. SOMERSET.
Yoghurt from WINDSOR FARM
Apple juice from SANDRINGHAM
Vegetables and plants from THE ROYAL GARDENS, WINDSOR
Whiskey (single malt) from BALMORAL
Jersey ice cream from WINDSOR FARM
Biscuits, cakes, bread, chocolates, from WINDSOR FARM SHOP
There was a good array of local cheeses, all mentioned by me before, but, as far as I can see, they don’t make a royal cheese, and, although there were free-range and very enterprising hens in the carpark, there were no eggs except quails’ eggs from
WINDSOR QUAIL FARM. (I don’t like the sound of that, but I speak from ignorance.)
There’s a cafi too. Very good tea from DARVILLES OF WINDSOR but I don’t think it is fairly traded.
All this is a good start and an excellent opportunity to do more. I would like to know more about the history of farming at Windsor (eg. Farmer George (III), Prince Albert’s dairy) and more about the animals farmed here now. An opportunity to see them would be welcomed, I’m sure, by many thousands of tourists besides me.
I find it frustrating that there is no open debate about the merits of industrial farming versus organic farming. It would help if Countrywide and similar organisations would talk openly about their approach to farming and answer critics, instead of just indulging in sales talk.
Could Windsor be the place where the general public could learn more about farming?
CHANGING THE WORLD.
Still reading Laurence Woodward on the aims of organic farming:
“… the business we are really in – the changing the world business.”
This takes me back to the beginning of this diary, when I came across Joan Hardingham’s words in her farm shop at Alder Carr, Needham Market:
“By choosing to eat these products, you can become involved in changing the way the world works.”
It seems a little thing to do (to buy one product rather than another) and it will only change the world in a little way.
We have seen recently what happens when we try to change the world in big ways. Government departments will go to any lengths to implement a hidden policy. Drug barons will employ clever graduates to call black white and poison medicine. War-crazed politicians will rush even faster to war if faced with reasoned opposition. The New World Order will wreak its terrible havoc, breeding a new generation of war-crazed terrorists, nominally on the other side.
And what can we do about it? In terms of stopping war, big business or drug barons, not a lot, it seems, but that is no reason to stop. However dark the times, there is always the opposite point of view in there somewhere. And the opposite point of view is: we are all connected and we can all do very small things locally for peace and love and freedom. Buying food that was not produced by exploitation is one. Saying what we think and feel is another.
I hear this is Fair Trade Week. You can buy fairly traded bananas in Sainsbury’s. They are all so bruised that, other things being equal, no consumer would buy them again. Is this an accident?
A3 HEN HOUSE, HINDHEAD HILL FARM, SURREY
Really free chickens (3,000 of them) graze beside the A3, providing the best advertisement for their enormous eggs. After driving past thousands of times, customers eventually find the entrance to the farm, and it’s worth it.
MCDONALDS are advertising that all their eggs are free-range. I emailed to ask where they get them on Tuesday. So far (Sunday) they have not answered. They claim to answer all emails within 72 hours.
Word of the week comes again from the Crop Protection Association’s website.
It is biotechnology.
It means genetic modification
SANDRIDGE FARM SHOP, BROMHAM, DEVIZES, WILTS.
Famous for Wiltshire bacon and it is delicious. They cure it and raise the pigs. They also grow and mill their own pig food. They are good on history too. I learned that Wiltshire’s reputation for bacon dates from the eighteenth century when drovers herded Irish pigs from Bristol docks to London, stopping off at Calne, where the Harris family developed a new method of curing meat. This cure is still used at Sandridge, who do everything (except slaughter) on the farm. Sandridge had a farm trail, which they abandoned because no one walked it.
Everyone round here has trouble finding a local slaughter house since Bath closed and Devizes priced themselves out of the market. The choice is Sturminster Newton, Cinderford or Wales.
WHITE ROW FARM SHOP AND NURSERY, BECKINGTON, WILTS.
Very popular. They have been going 3 years and are expanding all the time. Next developments will be a cafi and a butchery.
They sell their own fruit and veg, fresh and frozen, also alpines, grown on site
THATCHER’S CIDER draught and bottled, including their new range of single variety ciders – a good idea and single variety draught would be better still.
Organic cereals and flour from:
PERTWOOD ORGANICS, www.pertwood-organics.com whom I’m going to see,
DORSET CEREALS, DORCHESTER
ENGLAND MILLS, BERKELEY, GLOS.
Dried peas, beans etc. from SUN COTTAGE, DORCHESTER, DORSET.
Butter and cream from COOMBE FARM, CREWKERNE, SOMERSET
GODMINSTER VINTAGE CHEDDAR, BRUTON, SOMERSET
Somerset Brie and Camembert from LUBBORN CHEESE CO. CHARD, SOMERSET
Several more cheeses from WHITE LAKE, PYLLE, SOMERSET.
Country wines from LYME BAY WINERY, DORSET.
Wine from WYLYE VALLEY WINE, WILTS
NORWOOD ORGANIC FARM, NORTON ST. PHILIP, BATH, SOMERSET.
Rare breed sheep, pigs, cattle, poultry. Model organic farm open from the end of March. Much excellent teaching material including farm trails, organic vegetables and a wind turbine. They have an on site butcher, and a shop selling their own meat and wool, local dairy produce, and more. There’s also a cafi in the season.
CIRENCESTER FARMERS MARKET. GLOUCESTERSHIRE.
CERNEY CHEESE is no longer made from their own milk. Demand became too great and they now buy in milk from a large indoor herd of goats in Ashleworth. If any animal was ill-adapted to intensive farming it is surely the goat. I am told these goats have every luxury and indoor games organized for them in their barns. This is a very poor joke.
DAYS COTTAGE APPLE JUICE, BROOKTHORPE, GLOS. www.applejuice.care4free.net
Using traditional varieties from their old family orchard, they make apple juices, cider and perry. They have also started the Gloucestershire Museum Orchard, which is sorely needed.
HOLMLEIGH DAIRY, DONNINGTON, GLOS.
Jersey and Gurnsey milk, cream and butter, all milked, bottled and churned on the farm and all sold locally. They do a milk round as well as selling at farmers’ markets and in local shops. Lovely milk.
PADDOCK VIEW, LYNEHAM, WILTS.
Free range poultry, eggs and beef. Very good and genuine.
OAKDENE, OAKSEY, GLOS.
Free range beef, pork and lamb. “Our animals are free-range. We treat them like our children.” You are invited to go and see that this is true. email@example.com
HAYLES FRUIT FARM, WINCHCOMBE, GLOS. www.hayles-fruit-farm.co.uk
Big business in the fruit farming world. This month, they sell apples and apple juice at farmers markets. Mainly they sell to supermarkets.
WHITFIELD FARM ORGANICS, FALFIELD, GLOS. www.whitfieldfarmorganics.co.uk . Soft fruit and organic beef from Berkeley Vale.
It is heartening that there are farmers who care about the health and well-being of their animals, their land and their customers. Anyone can go and see them.
Similarly, there are people who care about peace and are prepared to say so. We are even in a majority. The official policy of bullying, killing, and manipulating the truth is increasingly seen through.
Surely this has got to be good news?
On the eve of war, farming may seem irrelevant, but I see a familiar trend in our fields paralleled in the global situation. We live in fear. Anonymous forces with motives we don’t understand can take over our lives and destroy us. There seems to be nothing we can do or say to alter this situation.
Visited Pat Innocent, whose sheep were under threat during the Foot and Mouth tragedy. Pat lives in the Forest of Dean, where the feral sheep were thought to be infected. Although her own sheep had no contact with the forest sheep, they were about to be culled, when Pat, her solicitor and the Forest Action Group opposed the official policy. Pat stood out for the right to have a blood test and, after withstanding a lot of pressure, eventually won. She has lived in fear of Defra ever since. Since the passing of the Animal Health Act, Defra now have the power to come in and kill Pat’s animals at any time and, with the pressure to reduce the national flock, she is convinced that they will target her again. Once, this might have seemed like paranoia, but since Foot and Mouth such fears are all too rational.
OAKDENE FARM, OAKSEY, CIRENCESTER, GLOS.
www.oakdene.co.uk (website not working at the moment.)
The fear here, I imagine, would be losing the family farm and they are coping with it in the best way possible.
Really free-range poultry all over the place. They sell chickens, both the eggs and the meat, but mainly they sell pork, beef and lamb. Their beef calves are reared free-range on retired dairy cows and graze in groups, swapping mothers. Pigs are also out in the fields and only interfered with if they are ill. Sheep lamb indoors, which they are doing at the moment – mostly strong triplets. They go out as soon as they are ready to play. They grow and mill their own animal feed. The on site butcher, Warren Hanratty runs the shop, cures the bacon, makes the sausages and operates a meat box scheme. Visitors to the farm are welcome, but please ring Warren first on 021666 577207.
FULMAYS. WOEFULDENE FARM, MINCHINHAMPTON. GLOS.
Gloucester Old Spot piglets ran to meet me, then assaulted their mothers. Fulmays is primarily a dairy farm. They are council tenants and required to run the intensive dairy unit, but it only pays the rent. The fear must be not surviving. In spite of the absence of profit, the cows have mats to sleep on indoors, go out when the weather permits and seem comfortable and content. For money to live on, they have free range pigs and Old Gloucester cattle for beef. They grow some cereals too, using the pigs as part of the rotation. At the moment, their free-range meat is sold at farmers’ markets. An on site shop will come next, giving the public a chance to see how the animals are reared. They have nothing to hide.
EASTBROOK FARM, BISHOPSTONE, SWINDON. WILTS
Helen Browning is impressively good at public relations, but she’s good at farming too. There is an efficient farm trail, up the Wiltshire downs, along the Ridgeway and down the dry valley. You can learn a lot about organic farming along the way. Helen’s first priority is to give her animals a good life. She started selling her own branded bacon to supermarkets when she realized she could give more pigs a good life by expanding her sales. With the same motive, Helen also rears and sells veal. I saw the luxurious veal house. The calves also go out with their foster mothers – retired cows from Eastbrook’s two dairy herds. They produce pink veal at about 6 months. This is the only chance of a life for male calves from the dairy herds.
Helen is interesting about every detail of her animals’ lives. She’s also capable of dealing with supermarkets and marketing on a large scale. She has dealt with fear by meeting it head-on.
ODESSA FARM, TEWKESBURY, GLOS.
David Goddard deals with fear by getting angry, which is a good way. He has coped with the idiocies of bureaucracy and the criminal greed of big business by exposing them on the internet and keeping on persistently being an excellent dairy farmer. He is in a good position to see what’s happening to farming in this country. Dairy farmers are being squeezed to give more and more milk for less and less profit; other countries in the European Union have an unfair advantage; farming is seen exclusively in industrial terms. It’s not worth going on. That’s enough to make anyone angry. On top of that, David’s farm, which is owned by the council, is between a motorway and a new estate. It doesn’t have a long-term future.
From my cheery little bulletins from farms that do have a future, you might think that I don’t live in the same world as David Goddard. In fact, I know only too well that he is right. That’s why I’m on this journey. Industrial farming is going to have a painful death before things get better.
Similarly, the world is about to plunge into a hideous war. We’re in it already and it’s getting worse, but the worse it gets, the more obvious it becomes that we could live at peace, in harmony with the land and with each other.
It’s the same with farming.
HAYLES FRUIT FARM, WINCHCOMBE, GLOS.
Beautiful site on the edge of the Cotswolds, with cafi, shop, glorious walks, with a farm trail, PYO. They press their own apple juice and make their own cider. You could happily spend a day there, or a week, as they have a camp-site.
WANBOROUGH FARMERS MARKET, WILTS
A village affair, in the village hall. Very local meat, vegetables, cream, cakes, plants.
Kent is a two-tone county. Immediately obvious are the motorways, the new railway, the proliferation of new housing, the supermarkets, new cars, golf courses and double-glazed speed which characterise New Europe.
Beneath the slick surface, older values remain. The apple orchards round Faversham, the primeval sheep of Romney Marsh, the flourishing mixed farms of the Weald, the obstinately flooding rivers, all tell a different story.
I do not think this is essentially a contrast between new and old. It is more like a contrast between global and local.
THE GOODS SHED, STATION ROAD WEST, CANTERBURY, KENT
Permanent farmers’ market, open every day except Monday. There is a price check list on a blackboard outside with an impressive array of goods that are cheaper here than in the local supermarket. They are also fresher, better tasting and produced in a kinder way.
Inside, stall-holders are bad at saying who they are, which accounts for the lack of addresses, but usually means they are genuine.
CHANDLER AND DUNN Free-range lamb, beef, pork, sausages
MONKSHILL FARM, MONKSHILL RD. FAVERSHAM. Free-range chickens reared by a school for deaf children and processed on the farm.
PARK FARM, HAWKHURST. Free-range beef, lamb and eggs. They also run the butcher’s shop in the Colonnade at Hawkhurst. They are restoring wildlife strips and hedgerows and are very keen to host farm visits. 01580 753558
PERRY COURT FARM, GARLINGE GREEN. Bio-dynamic farm, with Steiner school, producing fruit and vegetables, beef and flour. They have their own shop open on Thurs, Fri. and Sat. I regretfully missed it.
WOODLANDS FARM Free-range eggs, laid the same day.
NICHOL FARM TEYNHAM, FAVERSHAM Apples and apple juice sold under the name of LEAN KEEN GREEN. Orchards have been there since Tudor times. So have the houses.
NASH NURSERY Organic chicken and vegetables.
BLEAN FARM SHOP Vegetables.
NEALS PLACE FARM, CANTERBURY. Apple juice.
MRS OSBORNE’S PUDDINGS
There is also a good cheese stall, but they don’t tell much about where the cheeses come from. No real farmer can spend every day selling. Even one day a month is a strain. So inevitably, this gives rise to middlemen, who do not have direct contact with the animals, soil, processing, etc. and often know nothing about such matters. This is the problem with a permanent farmers’ market.
The Goods Shed also has a restaurant on a platform above the stalls.
You can still buy fresh fish straight off the boats, sold buy the fisherman. There’s a cafi selling local fish, in the middle of a working harbour, where they are building a wind farm. Old Europe co-exists with New.
WINGHAM COUNTRY MARKET
Their own and local fruit and veg. and free-range eggs.
Also their own nursery garden.
Other produce is organic rather than local.
ROLVENDEN FARMERS’ MARKET, KENT.
Wonderful market in the church (and village hall) revealing a wealth of talent on the Weald. It was started by Sue Saggers, who runs willow courses at
LOWDEN MANOR, ROLVENDEN LAYNE, CRANBROOK . She sells free-range duck, goose and hen eggs and provides instruction and work for people with learning difficulties on her mixed, traditional farm. As well as farmers, she has gathered together several farmers’ wives who are stunningly good cooks, using local ingredients.
REDLANDS FARM, WESTFIELD, HASTINGS have two pedigree dairy herds: one Guernsey and one Ayrshire. They sell milk, cream, yoghurt, butter and flavoured curd.
SUNBEAM FARM, BROAD OAK BREDE, E. SUSSEX. Free-range lamb, pork, beef, poultry, from a traditional farm which “has been run in much the same way for almost a hundred years”. They welcome visitors
FRASERS QUALITY CUISINE, EGERTON. Run by Lisa-Jane Fraser, a very talented cook who is about to start a farmers’ market in Egerton. She hopes this will be on Friday afternoons starting in May.
THE DAWG’S BISCUITS, 65, NORMAN RD. ST. LEONARDS. E. SUSSEX.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Organic and very healthy hand-made dog biscuits.
CHALLCOTE ANGORA GOATS, TOPHILL FARM, WITTERSHAM, KENT.
Outdoor (and indoor when they choose) goats produce mohair socks, fleece for spinners, spun angora and mixes of angora and silk, angora and sheep’s wool, also woven items and cottage garden plants.
SIMPLY WILD, BRIGHTLING RD. ROBERTSBRIDGE, E. SUSSEX. “Vegetables, fruit and livestock in harmony with nature”. They have a shop (open Wed-Sat), in a really beautiful valley with the growing going on all round. There they sell their own free-range pork and sausages, chicken and eggs. They also sell other people’s cheeses (mentioned before except OLD PLAW HATCH FARM, SHARPTHORNE, who do organic unpasteurised cheddar), beef and lamb.
THE ORGANIC POTATO SHOP, TENTERDEN, KENT. www.thepotatoshop.com
ANDREW SMITH, STAPLEHURST RD. FRITTENDEN. KENT. Vegetables.
BISHOPSDEN ORGANIC, BIDDENDEN, KENT. Organic chicken, lamb, eggs.
KATE HOPKINS, BENENDEN, KENT. Another amazingly good and unassuming cook.
BOTTERELLS FISH MERCHANTS, RYE with fish straight out of the sea.
MILL POND FARM, TENTERDEN, KENT. Free-range eggs.
Rolvenden is all that a farmers’ market should be, with a good range of produce all genuinely local and, I think, genuinely produced by the people selling it. There were farms big enough to be viable, farms small enough to be individual, farms that welcome the public, farms engaging in education, cooks and books and villagers sitting round having tea. It is a wonderfully medieval use of the medieval church, but I don’t see it as a quaint bit of history. These are the people who are turning “the countryside” into a living workplace where everyone can be involved.
BREDE FARMERS’ MARKET, BREDE VILLAGE HALL, E. SUSSEX
Smaller than Rolvenden, with some of the same stalls. New to me were:
GREAT KNELLE FARM, BECKLEY, E. SUSSEX. www.farmworld-rye.co.uk
Jenny Farrant sold me her delicious steak and kidney pudding and told me about Farm World, (at her farm) which will be opening on April 5. There you can be a farmer for the day and, in September, learn all about hops too
MY OWN STUFF, PETER SPENCER, KILN COTTAGE, BREDE, E. SUSSEX apple juice and apples. An individualist, with his own picture on the bottle.
WILDERNESS WOOD, HADLOW DOWN, UCKFIELD, E. SUSSEX
www.wildernesswood.co.uk Working woodland which you can visit to learn about woodland skills and buy woodland products. You can dig your own Christmas tree too.
OAST HOUSE FARM, BUXTED, E. SUSSEX.
PYO fruit in season. (Strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries) Also own apple juice and free-range eggs from PARK FARM, MARESFIELD. Other produce not so local. Tea room. A delightful place with a small lake.
This two-tier world, which is so striking in Kent, is our world, wherever we are. Even in an inner city, you can be close to nature. Even in the depths of the country, you can access the internet via your mobile phone. I am not saying one side is better than the other. I’m saying neither can flourish without the other.
Please feel free to disagree.
I wish I’d had longer in Kent, but all is not lost. Denise Burgess is going to report on all the interesting farms I’ve missed in the South Country.
HADLOW COLLEGE, TONBRIDGE, KENT.
A large multi-purpose event. Some 5000 visitors to this event on one day.
Largely family groups visit to see the new born lambs in the barn and
fields. Many of the students are on hand to talk about their work. Other
animals in the equine and small animal unit could be seen as well as
falcons. The College promoted both its full and part time courses.
Several charities had indoor stalls. The Kent Smallholders Group was also
on hand. Additionally there was a small farmers'market selling a wide
range of local and less so produce; bread and cakes, fish, wild boar
sausages, venison, apple juice, soup, vegetables and local sheep's milk
MARCH 8 AND 15.
SEVEN SISTERS SHEEP CENTRE, EAST DEAN, EASTBOURNE.
This is an excellent working farm also catering for tourists and, I
believe, many people in the South East who return time and again. The farm
buildings are superb. Terry has some 240 sheep, many of which are rare
breeds. There are 40 or so breeds, though milk sheep predominate. In Spring
the farm is open for the lambing season. On both occasions we witnessed
the birth of young. Youngsters are able to help with bottlefeeding the
In Summer visitors can see demonstrations of shearing and milking. Sheep's
milk products are on sale in the excellent little shop. The tearoom serves
superb food including homebaked cakes and scones. There are other animals
besides the sheep. On both occasions there was a fascinating lady
demontrating spinning and weaving. Displays are unobtrusive and clear.
Terry does educational visits in a mobile unit.
Additionally, visitors can sponsor a lamb. This entitles you to free
visits and a newsletter. If you continue to sponsor the ewe it is possible
to have the fleece in the second year. I could not resist and sponsored a
single Suffolk lamb. She had grown enormously when I visited a week later!
I have named her Dot in honour of our dear friend Dot Boag who left this
planet in December. I know she will be pleased.
All the best from us both,
BEAUTIFUL COUNTRYSIDE c/o BRITISH FARMING.
2.QUALITY FOOD c/o BRITISH FARMING.
The Vale of York does not particularly inspire me with its beauty, but it does with its fertility and industrious (most of it industrial) farming
15th June 2003
AINSTY FARM SHOP, GREEN HAMMERTON, YORK.
This shop is representative of the Vales bounty, and well worth a visit. Outside is a backboard proclaiming the farms producing the meat for the week. This week it was
Pork from JEREMY GILL (any relation?) at TOCKWITH,
Beef from BERNARD HENLET At ASKHAM RICHARD
Lamb from T. BARTON AND SON at MARTON CUM GRAFTON.
Also outside is a good selection of local vegetables and fruit including strawberries.
Cream, butter and ice cream from BIRCHFIELD, SUMMERBRIDGE, HARROGATE.
Apple juice from LANCHESTER, DURHAM
Free range eggs from HAMBLETON VIEW FARM, BURTON LEONARD
Yoghurt from STONEGATE FARM, WHIXBY, YORK
Bacon and other smoked meats and fish from BLEAKERS SMOKEHOUSE, GLASSHOUSES MILL, HARROGATE
This is a really good shop, and extremely popular. We were queueing on the doorstep at 10 on a Sunday
I first saw "QUALITY FOOD c/o BRITISH FARMING
outside THE SMITHY FARM SHOP in BALDERSBY, near NORTHALLERTON.
This banner is much more appropriate to the York plain, and yet I quibble at the idea of "quality" food. We are being duped into believing that most food has to have no taste and no nutritional value, but, for those who can afford the niche market, there is "quality food" which, incidentally, is British. What a load of nonsense! All food should be quality food (and could be produced in this country) then we would not need the odious word "quality".
THE SMITHY, whose meat was all from Wales, added to the list of local produce:
Butter from FOUNTAINS DAIRY, KIRBY MALZEARD
Sausages from the MASHAM SAUSAGE SHOP
Milk from ACORN DAIRY, ARCHDEACON NEWTON, DARLINGTON
Ice cream from BRYMOR, which now gets everywhere. I did go to their farm at JERVAULX and there are still Jersey cows and they still have an ice-cream parlour, but they have now expanded beyond the local ice cream that I enjoyed a few years ago. I hope they are able to withstand the pressures that defeated LOSELEY.
16th June 2003
WEATHERHEAD AND SONS, PATELEY BRIDGE.
This is the ideal butcher. The Weatherheads have done their own slaughtering for more than 100 years and they still manage to keep their own abattoir going. Farmers come into the shop and say how many lambs thy can provide next week. This week the notice in the window was "Spring lamb from my wifes farm in Ilkley". Mr. Weatherhead has a lifetimes experience of cutting meat and he is generous at sharing his knowledge with farmers who, since Foot and Mouth, are starting to sell their own meat. A tradition is being reborn.
WEATHERHEADS meat pies generate a queue down the High Street in Pateley Bridge which has probably also been there for the last century. It is well worth waiting, particularly for their pork and apple. I queued this time, but the last one was bought just before I made it. (I did get some roast chicken, also well worth queueing for) Very acceptable substitute pies and "mucky drip" are produced by KENDALLS, half way up the High Street. They also boast local meat from AGARS of ILKLEY www.nidderdale.co,uk
21st June 2003
RICHMOND FARMERS MARKET. N. YORKS
The same PR trouble I encounter in the South. People can produce banners sporting words like "quality", but the really good producers dont have time to advertise. Im not in favour of advertising instead of being good, but it does help if people show their name. One who does is YORKSHIRE DALES BEEF, BEDALE (01677 450257) who have an efficient stall at local markets and shows and sandwich boards outside local shops and garages all round Osmotherley.
LANGTHORNES BUFFALO PRODUCE (01609 776937)
LOW LEASES FARM ORGANIC GROWERS. Stall full of radiantly fresh vegetables. They also do veggie boxes in N Yorks, the Dales and Teesside. Robert McGregor, who runs it, sells his own organic pork, now slaughtered at Macintyres, which is an hours drive away, in Wensleydale. The Soil Association wont allow him to use his local slaughterhouse in Masham.
This is a story Ive heard before. I find it painful that organic should be more important than animal welfare.
SWALEDALE CHEESE. www.swaledalecheese.co.uk Many flavours of cow and goat cheese using local milk.
MANSGILL FARM. Traditionally reared beef, pork, lamb and eggs.
YORKSHIRE PUNCH herbal tonic, a pleasant but expensive panacea.
BLUEBELL ORGANICS, FORCETT HALL, RICHMOND (07759 832234) Katrina delivers organic veggie boxes in the Teesdale area and sells wonderfully fresh vegetables at local markets.
LANCHESTER APPLE JUICE, LANCHESTER, DURHAM selling their excellent apple juice, plus strawberries, gooseberries, broad beans.
BURTREE HOUSE FARM. Free range chickens, eggs and a very succulent tea loaf.
SPRINGHILL WATER from beadle
BROOM MILL FARM, W. AUKLAND. www.broommillfarm.co.uk offer traditional pork, dry cured bacon and gammon, oak smoked ham, sausages. They aim for happy, healthy pigs, fed on their own cereal and reared both outside and in open barns.
HAZEL BROW FARM, LOW ROW, SWALEDALE. www.hazelbrow.co.uk is all that a teaching farm should be. Starting with the advantage of undeniably beautiful countryside, also producing quality food (their own Swaledale lamb, organic milk, free-range eggs) it goes a lot further and offers a complete education in hill farming. I have nothing but respect for teachers like Libby (who was doing farm tours when I was there), who can offer their first contact with the natural world to children who are so alienated that terrified violence is their immediate response. (I know how hard this is, because Ive done it myself, but never as well as Libby.)
Hazel Brow offers contact with all farm animals, plus a full explanation of sheep farming and dairy farming, with videos filling in the bits that arent happening at the moment.
Animals to meet on this occasion were 2 week old kittens, collie puppies, orphaned lambs, being fed by an Anglo Nubian goat, chicks, ducklings, goslings, a pony, pigs. These change all the time, according to the farms needs, because Hazel Brow is a working farm first. An excellent exhibition explains the inter-action of moorland and valley. There are also walks, both along the Swale and on the tops. The exhibition room concentrates on the uses of wool. KATE TRUSSON, who does and teaches quilting using carded wool, showed me round. I was encouraged to see people are just beginning to value wool again. Among them:
ANREA HUNTER, who has a gallery in Hardraw, does really beautiful felt pictures.
JENNY DAVIS in Reeth, does skins
THERMAFLEECE www.secondnatureuk.com does wool insulation
THE WOOLLY RUG CO www.woollyrug.com does Herdwick rugs
JEFF WILKES www.willywinkle.co.uk does woolen mattresses
HEATHER RICHIE (The Garden Rug Studio, Reeth. 01748 884435) does rag rugs. She also teaches rug making in her delightful studio.
DAVID MORRIS www.swaledalewoollens.co.uk has a shop in Muker selling locally knitted garments.
I went to SWALEDALE WOOLLENS in Muker and it seemed to me like any other gifte shoppe. In fact Id never have know the garments were locally made. Theyve done their market research no doubt, but it would be nice to have one or two items made from undyed and obviously local wool and to be told more about local connections.
WENSLEYDALE WOOL SHOP does do this and it is specifically for Wensleydale wool. Ive been in the past, but not this time. I mean to go again.
22nd June 2003
N. YORKS SHOW.
A really good comprehensive show. It seemed to me to be back to normal after Foot and Mouth. There are more regulations, no doubt, but people are bravely surmounting them to prove that country traditions are full of life and prepared to withstand the whims of beaurocrats.
E. HOWLE ALPACAS, TEESDALE, selling yarn, and they had alpacas.
ALDURO DAIRY GOATS, BOULBY BARNS FARM, EASINGTON, SALTBURN. With milk, yoghurt, soft and hard goat cheeses, plain and flavoured and very good. Their goats are Saanens, kept outside and I hope to see them.
BASSETT HALL FARM, UPSALL, THIRSK (01845 537018) selling free-range beef, lamb and pork and also breeding rare breeds of poultry and waterfowl, which they invite you to visit.
Never mind the banners. There IS a new spirit in farming. People like the Calvert family at Hazel Brow are making valiant efforts to show the best of what happens and has always happened in farming to a generation who have become so completely estranged from the country that words like beautiful and quality are as irrelevant to them as words like organic or free-range.
Its a start.
My apologies for my computer, which cut the word "beautiful" from the beginning of my last diary, thereby making the whole thing meaningless.
No doubt it is reflecting some hidden kink in my mind.
Its great to be on my travels again and to be in touch with you all again.
Thanks for writing in.
DERBYSHIRE. JUNE 2003.
There are two worlds
One is the materialist world of profitability, security, power. The other is the underworld, where nothing is secure. Instead, you have beauty, creativity, love.
These two worlds meet in Derbyshire.
Derbyshire has the Peak District. Surely no landscape is more beautiful, no expression of religion more strange than the well-dressings which flourish here. The underworld erupts into the everyday.
Derbyshire has Cromford, where Arkwright built his first mills. So much industrial thinking was born here. In Cromford, the mills and the early canal spring naturally from the dramatic landscape. There is no boundary between town and country.
Derbyshire has Chatsworth, cradle of fine arts, elysian landscape, victorian gardening, interpretation of the countryside in our unenlightened age. The magic of Chatsworth springs from the world of power and money, yet somehow plunges you straight into paradise.
Derbyshire has no cities, but now that everywhere is so accessible, the High Peak and the limestone Dales are the playgrounds of Sheffield and Manchester.
Derbyshire is already fought over by factions with differing views about what they want from the country. People from opposite backgrounds, with opposed viewpoints meet here to squabble about the rights of walkers, conservationists, farmers
Farming is only one voice, and a largely disregarded one, in the battle for who gets what out of the countryside. Farmers are usually too busy to spend time updating their image.
Theres a lot of set-aside on the hill farms, very few animals, and a wholesale return of nettles and thistles. I can see great swathes of the hills going back to uncultivated walking country, as they have further North in Yorkshire, where the intake (the moorland that was laboriously cultivated by miners and hill farmers, who were often the same people) is going wild again.
Some family farms still flourish, some using industrial methods. Organics are few and far between. Chatsworth has sucked all the talent out of the surrounding country. You have to go to farmers markets to find the others. They are...
BAKEWELL - June 28th 2003 - A really flourishing market) and HARTINGTON, which happens every Sunday in summer. At these, and at the permanent farmers market in Bakewell, I found:
MISTLEHALL FARM, BEELEY, DERBYSHIRE
The hens graze the high heather moors, drinking from a natural spring, fed on GM-free corn, enriched with minerals and herbs. They are exposed to no anti-biotics, fertilizers or herbicides. Their housing is designed to Freedom Food standards and they have access to an indoor scratching area, for times when they dont want to go out.
With all that (and green lighting too) you might expect the eggs to be expensive. They are not. The reason is the proud claim that because the hens are healthy and stress free, they lay more eggs. They are very good eggs too.
If one farm can do this, why cant others?
LYDGATE FARM, ALDWARK GRANGE MILL, MATLOCK, DERBYSHIRE
www.lydgatefarm.co.uk (website not yet up and running yet!) They make a very good cheese. Also curd tart.
DERBYSHIRE DALES ORGANICS, BRADLEY, ASHBOURNE, DERBYSHIRE.
"A healthy environment results in the finest produce". They have free-range pigs, sheep and poultry. The pigs act as environmentally friendly rotovators and fertilizers. The sheep, in two flocks, graze on the clover leys producing early and late season lambs. Organic chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks are all free-range as well.
SOUTH DERBYSHIRE GROWERS (at least 6 of them round MELBOURNE) started at the end of the eighteenth century growing hedging quicks for enclosures, and then for the railways. They still grow perennials, annuals, vegetables, and sell only what they grow. Much of it seems to be grown to order, but there is enough surplus to stock a market stall.
THE MONKS DERBYSHIRE MUSHROOMS.
"Well beat the French yet" and they did have an impressive array of exotic mushrooms.
FRANJOY DAIRY, HARTSWELL HALL FARM, STONE, STAFFORDSHIRE.
They milk their own Jerseys. Theyve been making cheese from their own milk all their lives. Im invited to go and see them. I havent yet, so I hope youll hear more from Franjoy.
JULY - 2003
I went to Surrey Docks Farm for a history do. Its quite fun to be history and still alive. Its also great fun to go back to an area which has gone through 300 years worth of change in 30 years. Waste land has become real estate. When I started the farm, the whole area was derelict docks. Now it is high-rise flats, whose residents live there for an AVERAGE of 6 months. The farm is as incongruous and as vital now as it was then.
There is even less evidence of the underworld now than there was in the time of the docks. Then the river was the focus of all activity. It was a river enslaved to industry, but still a potent symbol of the wild. When the docks died, wild life pushed up through the cracks and my goats and poultry grazed in the ruins of the empire. Now, we have the next empire and it is even more brutal and insidious, though softened cosmetically with planters and window-boxes. This new empire has no time for the natural world, but it pays lip-service to greenness, so the farm is still there.
The farm is there to teach alienated Londoners about the natural world. The site, worth nothing when I started it, is now worth millions.
The two worlds here are the upper world of high finance and high-rise office blocks and the underworld of small is beautiful.
I wonder whose values will prevail.
E-DIARY No:33 - August- September 2003
Kent is traditionally the county where town meets country. It has been the garden of England (more accurately the market garden of England) since at least Roman times.
The first hop garden in England was planted near Canterbury in 1520.
Henry VIII had orchards planted at Teynham to feed the court. These still produce cherries, apples and (England's most recent triumph) wonderful apple juice.
For hundreds of years, hop picking was their only contact with the country for thousands of Londoners. Machines only replaced them in the 1950's.
Since then the great divide between town and country (also known since Roman times) has reached epic proportions. It is not a gap of distance, but of culture. The two worlds exist on top of one another, but they can't seem to communicate.
Several times, I turned off one of Kent's motorways into single-lane cart tracks axle deep in hops. Orchards on either side were bowed down with apples. Farm houses have a sign on the gate saying APPLE JUICE. And Eurostar roars a few yards away. You can almost live in the two worlds at the same time. But never quite. The fast lane has no idea that the underworld exists and the underworld fights a precarious battle to survive the juggernaut.
We hear a lot about the third world needing the first world. The poor need the money, the expertise, the technology of the rich. Perhaps they do, but even more the town needs the understanding, the instinctive creativity, the sanity of the country.
In Kent, they don't so much come together as live side by side in mutual ignorance.
BANK FARM, ALDINGTON, ASHFORD, KENT is planted firmly in both worlds. It is on the edge of Romney Marsh, where the concession to the 21st century is to change from sheep to growing turf for suburban lawns: a huge change, I admit, but it has not yet destroyed the fifth-world mystery of the marsh. Romney Marsh still does not conform to anyone else's world view. Bank Farm, on its ridge, does a lot for the local wildlife. Otters, kingfishers and owls are catered for alongside thousands of chickens who really can range freely. It was so hot they weren't going far from their air-conditioned houses, but I do believe that in more normal weather, they are all over the fields. They produce thousands of eggs for the hotels and restaurants of London. Bank Farm is a LEAF open farm and they do a good job of bridging the two worlds. It's a place to watch, and to take people who don't believe that commercial chickens can be really free-range. (It is true that many are not.) Their eggs are good and very reasonably priced.
WINTERFIELD FARM, NURSERY AND SHOP (Fri and Sat), EAST MALLING, KENT. Really home-grown vegetables in profusion. They also grow shrubs and plants and will re-design and re-stock your garden. They sell their own free-range eggs as well.
INVICTA NATURAL MEATS, COURT FARM, UPPER HALLING, ROCHESTER, KENT. Producing their own naturally reared beef, lamb and venison. They also sell their own free range chicken and eggs, pork, bacon, sausages and burgers, pies and pasties. Also their own wholemeal bread, made from their own wheat.
THE FARM SHOP, NORTH CRAY. KENT. The Cray Valley has been grabbed by London. There is little country left, but this particular park, known as Five Arches, still shows what the country must have been like when William Morris built the Red House here and started the suburban revolution. The meeting of the worlds of town and country is still poignantly relevant. The farm shop is in old farm buildings. Some fields are planted with cabbages and maize, which are sold in the shop. There is a tractor for the kids to play on. They sell local jams and chutneys, and apple juice from RINGDEN FARM, FLIMWELL, E. SUSSEX. It is easy to see the layers of the Cray Valley's history, from country with a palladian villa and orchards, to large factories and suburban housing, to public open space and farm shop. Not quite full circle, but the country is definirely re-asserting itself. Suburban kids ride their horses along and through the river.
APPLE JUICE is the great new product of English farming. It flourishes more each year and deserves to flourish. It is made by people who always made cider, people who always had apple orchards, people who pick the old varieties of apple in decaying orchards, and people who have started recently from scratch. On this trip, I have bought excellent juice from:
PERRY COURT, GARLINGE GREEN
PAWLEY FARM, FAVERSHAM
MOLE END, HARTLEYLAND FARM, CRANBROOK
THE NATIONAL FRUIT COLLECTION, BROGDALE
RINGDEN FARM, FLIMWELL
CHEGWORTH VALE, MAIDSTONE
OAKWOOD FARM, ROBERTSBRIDGE
OWL HOUSE FARM, LAMBERHURST
and a farm near Perry Hill who press the fruit from their own orchards and sell it without a brand name. It is as good as any.
This is by no means a comprehensive list and, so far, I can't find one. I mean to go into this subject more deeply.
HOPS are the great feature of Kent this week. Hop bines litter the lanes. Trailer-loads are on the move.
WHITBREADS HOP FARM, PADDOCK WOOD was always the model farm for hoppers. Now it has become enormously expanded into THE hop museum. You can learn anything you want about hops here. Also, of course, at WYE AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE if you're thinking making hops a career.
You can also learn about the forgotten breed of hoppers at the MUSEUM OF KENT LIFE, MAIDSTONE.
COBNUTS are Kent's other traditional crop. They are rolling on a revival. There is a Kentish cobnut association: www.kentishcobnutsassociaton.co.uk. You can buy them at farmers' markets and at farm gates eg.
OLDBURY FARM, IGHTHAM
SILVERHILL BARN, DUNKS GREEN
ALLENS FARM, PLAXTOL www.cobnuts.co.uk
MIDDLE FARM, FIRLE. E. SUSSEX www.middlefarm.com
The Pile family have built up a thriving farm shop, selling every sort of local food, under the banner NFU FARMING COUNTS, and it certainly does count, the way they do it. There is a Jersey herd and you can watch them being milked and buy their unpasteurised milk for 60p a pint! (Pasteurised Dairy Crest is sold as well for less)
There is an open farm where you can mingle with other farm animals. A full-time teacher and a classroom are there to provide a service for schools as well as the general public.
John Pile also breeds poultry (80 rare breeds) and runs poultry courses.
There is a restaurant where you can eat local produce, an excellent baker on site, a butcher, making his own sausages
AND the National Collection of Cider and Perry, with a phenomenal number of draught ciders, uncounted (literally) varieties of bottled cider, perry, apple juice, mead, cider- brandy, etc. You need several heavy drinkers with you to appreciate such a collection. However, it is a real celebration of local fruit. You can also have your own fruit pressed.
[ Festival of apples this year is October 18 and 19. ]
WOW. How do the Pile family manage to turn farming from a disaster area into a thriving and exciting business?
It must be the cider.
On the other hand, you could ask, why isn't every farm like this?
On the subject of cider, I have been briefly in SOMERSET, to find several old friends have closed down in the last few years. A tour of cider farms used to be the easiest way of going back 200 years. The equipment, buildings, methods of production, are essentially unchanged. So is the conversation. Traditional cider farms are the last bastions of pre-industrial farming. Havens like Coombe's, Rich's, Wilkin's on the Levels and Heck's in the middle of Street (and also Gray's in Devon), took you straight into another world. You might find it fearful or romantic, but there was no doubt it was other. There were and are modern cider farms too. Thatchers in Sandford, who have recently gone in for single variety ciders, always prided themselves on their modern equipment and sales ability. Their cider is good as well.
In a cider farm, you would find only draught cider, usually sweet or dry. You bought it in any container you happened to have on you, and tasting it was a large part of the transaction. Amazingly, this still goes on. Coombe's has become a caravan site and Brympton D'Eversey has become a stately home, but others remain and new people come along, eager to preserve or resurrect an old tradition and a unique drink.
I'm not saying old is good and new is bad. Apple juice, for example, is new and good.
I'm saying the two worlds are there, inextricable, in everything we do. They feed off one another.
CHEWTON MENDIP CHEESE no longer exists. The Waldegrave Estate were in the forefront of farming education a few years ago. They made their own cheddar from their own milk, sold it in their own shop and cooked with it in their own restaurant. The restaurant was in a gallery, so, as you ate, you could look down and watch your cheese being made. All this is gone, but it is worth recording for the influence it had. I wonder if they ever knew how much it was appreciated.
CRICKETER FARM SHOP, NETHER STOWEY, SOMERSET
They make their own cheese (not from their own milk), butter and cream, and sell other local food in their shop. They also run a cafe.
Own cider: www.wmcider.co.uk
I have hardly started on Somerset. This is the story of my travels. I see a fraction of the new and interesting, traditional and genuine, kind and sustainable, ways of producing food. The more I see, the more I want to see, so for every county, I have a list of farmers I haven't seen and farmers I want to see again.
What does this tell me?
That I am increasingly torn in all directions? Yes. But also that there is a wealth of talent out there. Industrialisation is not killing the land. It is breeding a race of inventive and committed pioneers and the future of the land is in their hands. Some go under, which is sad, but nature has millions of ways of fighting back.
I'm off to Devon and Cornwall, with a new computer. I may not be able to answer you immediately, but do keep emailing.
With all good wishes to all,
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.
EDIARY 35 CORNWALL / DEVON
Cornwall is the place where the North coast meets the South coast and all generalisations about north and south become meaningless, as all polarised positions do in the end. GM is in the news this week, with the inevitable polarisation of "organic" and "conventional" points of view. I take exception to the use of the word conventional to describe chemical farming. Chemical farming is an abberation only practised in the last fifty years. There is nothing inherently conventional about weed killers. I'm not saying a doctrinaire refusal to use all chemicals is conventional either (lime for example has been used for a lot longer than fifty years). North meets South when we approach the land with understanding and common sense, rather than from entrenched political positions.
Cornwall has its share of potatoes grown in sulphuric acid, though smaller fields, steep lanes and inaccessibility have saved it from the worst excesses of industrial farming. It also has dedicated organic farmers, a wealth of cheesemakers, and a huge renaissance of interest in gardening, clustered loosely round the Eden Project and the many refurbished Victorian gardens.
There are also farm shops selling really local food, with customers really interested in buying it.
BILL AND FLO'S FARM SHOP, TREVARRACK, ST. IVES, CORNWALL
The have their own fishing lakes, which are extremely popular. A fishing boat in the sea is a fairly rare sight nowadays. They also take trouble to sell genuinely local food including:
CALLESTICK FARM ICE CREAM, CALLESTIC, TRURO, CORNWALL.
VIVIAN OLD'S ORGANIC MEAT, ST. JUST, CORNWALL. Rung on a sunday, Mr. Old confirmed that his chickens are free-range as well as organic.
Milk and cream from NEWLANDS FARM, PENSILVA, CORNWALL
Cornish pilchards in tins produced by THE PILCHARD WORKS, NEWLYN, CORNWALL (sponsored, I do not yet know how, by the Eden Project.)
Honey and beeswax from C. ALLEN, LANNER, REDRUTH, CORNWALL
Cider from CORNISH ORCHARDS http://www.cornishorchards.co.uk
Mead from NINEMAIDENS MEAD http://www.cornwalsolar.co.uk
Local strawberries, potatoes, lettuce, beets,squashes, courgettes, onions, hay and straw,
coal and logs.
I sensed a real dedication to the local
KEEHELLAND HORTICULTURAL CENTRE, KEHELLAND, CAMBORNE, CORNWALL. http://www.kehellandhort.co.uk
Run by the Council as a training centre for adults with learning difficulties, Kehelland has a thriving nursery garden and a recently established organic vegetable garden. They also run a shop selling all their own fruit, vegetables and plants, and other local produce. A remarkbly forward-looking enterprise, which meets many needs and seems to work well.
THE EDEN PROJECT, ST. AUSTELL, CORNWALL
Not strictly relevant to this diary, but I went, and it does have some good teaching material about world farming. I did not expect to be inspired, but it IS an inspiring place to be. Very missionary, but the huge crouds don't seem to take this amiss and, since the message is what I have been saying all my life, it makes me feel I haven't lived in vain.
There is a splendid crescent of local vegetables (local in the sense that they were grown outside; not necessarily local in origin).
NETHERTON FARM, UPTON CROSS, LISKEARD, CORNWALL.
Home of Cornish Yarg cheese. They also make soft cheeses and a yarg wrapped in wild garlic leaves. They do a cheese tour and show the prize herd of Holstein Friesians. They have a few pigs, sheep, and geese as well. There is a very good cafe and a shop.
Netherton Farm is interesting because they try hard to be in both worlds and, in Cornwall, you can. Their cows win prizes for their high yield. Their cheeses are made and sold on an industrial scale, in partnership with one other farm. They have modernised and intensified, and they ARE super-efficient. Yet they still make a farmhouse cheese. All the processes are done on the farm and the cows are very much part of the tour. They (the cows) drink all the wey.
The cheese tour makes much of the distinctive feature of Yarg, which is that it is matured in nettle leaves. These are hand-picked, painfully, by local people.
The finished cheese is bought by all supermarkets and most delicatessens. It is exported too.
Big business with a farmhouse face.
That's a bit unfair. They are real farmers and it's a real farm. It's pleasing that they can be as successful as they are and still make the cheese on the farm and invite the public to watch it being made.
"Yarg" is the name of the man who invented the recipe, spelt backwards. They have been making the cheese for 20 years and they don't pretend it's an old Cornish recipe with an old Cornish name.
This is just one of many dairies in Cornwall that produce excellent and truly local delicacies. Only lack of time prevented me visiting them all.
MIDDLE CAMPSCOTT FARM, LEE, ILFRACOMBE, N. DEVON
Karen and Lawrence Wright shewed me their flock of milking sheep, complete with wonderfully inventive ways of getting them in and out of the milking parlour. The sheep are being dried at the moment. They follow a natural breeding cycle and the Wrights use frozen milk for their cheeses in Winter. This makes interesting variations in taste. Their cheesemaking equipment relies on Lawrence's ingenuity and, with it, Karen produces some delicious hard cheeses. Free range chickens and dogs and a wriggling basket of 11 Border Collie pups contribute to the scene. The sheep are free to go out and graze, but prefer to sit around in the yard and ruminate.
To me, Lawrence and Karen have the right attitude to farming. ie. I agree with them. They are new farmers, which means they have worked it all out for themselves. They run the farm (organically) and sell the produce themselves, with the help of wooffers.
They sell (mainly at farmers' markets) hard sheeps cheese (both plain and with cummin) at various stages of maturity, knitting wool and some knitted and woven garments, and sheep skins. Lawrence does all the sheering himself, by hand (by which I mean without electric clippers). The wool is spun in Lampeter and comes in all colours, as they have a Shetland flock as well as the white milk sheep. They are thinking of milking Shetlands and adding some Shetland to their strain of British Friesland X Dorset milkers.
The Wrights are doing a lot for sheep at exactly the time when sheep most need to be valued and promoted. We need more people like them.
HIGHER HACKNELL FARM, BURRINGTON, UMBERLEIGH, DEVON. http://www.higherhacknell.co.uk
Very much a beacon organic farm. Jo and Tim Budden, who have been doing it for 20 years, are formidably efficient. Their land and animals glow with health. Their apple orchard is full of apples; their vegetable garden is full of vegetables. Their commercial chickens (in batches of 2000) graze on the mustard planted to give them shelter from birds of prey. This is their newest project, organised slightly differently from the lamb and beef. The Buddens rear the chickens from day-olds and they are slaughtered and sold by the hatcher The herd of South Devon cattle were just being brought back home for the winter. They graze in summer five miles away, the calves staying with their mothers. They are slaughtered locally and the meat is sold by the Buddens. The lamb also is reared and sold on the farm. Free-range turkeys potter about and graze on nettles, until they are slaughtered on the farm. All the animal feed is produced on the farm, organically, of course, so the rotation of crops takes much planning. Cider is made, with traditional equipment and neighbours helping. Wildlife abounds, including otters.
The Buddens find time to produce a very informative newsletter so their increasing circle of customers, admirers and friends have no excuse for being ignorant about organic farming.
This is a huge change over the last half century. There was a time when you had to know a farmer to find out anything about farming and, on the whole, people didn't want to know. There is still a vast reservoir of ignorance, but the take-over of farming by the chemical industry has had a backlash. Rebels against industrial farming want to tell the world what they are doing and increasingly, the world wants to hear. (Look at the vast crouds attracted to the Eden Project.) The meeting of North and South starts with education.
DARTMOOR HAPPY HOGS, WHIDDON DOWN, OKEHAMPTON, DEVON
Butcher's shop selling free range pork, sausages, bacon. Very good. Also some other local produce.
NORSWORTHY DAIRY GOATS, GUNSTONE, CREDITON, DEVON
About 200 goats (British Alpine, British Toggenburg, British Sanaan, and I suspect these 3 breeds together produce a particularly good milk). The milkers are housed, the young ones free range. Because there was a demand for goats' milk in winter, they started using lighting to bring the goats into season early in the year, so as to kid in the late summer. This apparently worked well, but now that they have a cheesemaker and sell their own cheese, it is no longer necessary. They have just got a new outlet for the milk: Sharpham, who produce a lovely cheese from their own Jersey cows and also offer a spectacularly beautiful walk round their vineyard on the river Dart. With their own cheese becoming popular locally, and with steady outlets for their milk, Norsworthy might be suspected of sweating their goats. They do not. The goats were in excellent health and seemed contented. I would prefer a mixed farm and a less intensive system, but within the limits of the possible, Norsworthy are an interesting development, completely independent of subsidies and quotas.
We had cows' milk from a supermarket in our coffee. Norsworthy get 50p a pint for their milk.
They do their bit for education too. African students come and help on the farm and study their goat-keeping.
NORTH DOWN FARM, YEOFORD, CREDITON, DEVON. http://www.northdownfarm.com
An excellent new teaching farm, representing this whole new attitude to farming. The Paytons have always been organic farmers, but only this year, moved their rare breeds to Devon and committed themselves to farming education. They are very good at it. Information about rare breeds and organic farming is painlessly administered in a beautiful setting.
As in almost all the West Country farms I visited, the cider orchard is a central feature, specially at this time of year and even more specially, this year, which has been sensationally good for apples. North Down intend to close the teaching for November, in order to make the cider. They have the traditional equipment and also a brand name: Devon Gold. Cider from this orchard is already sold and prized. They also have a large collection of old farming equipment, very useful for teaching.
The animals (White Park and Highland cattle, Tamworth pigs, Soay, Ronaldsay, Manx Loughton, Black Welsh, Grey-faced Dartmoor sheep, Golden Guernsey and Bagot goats, Old English rabbits, various poultry, a Shire horse and 2 donkeys, collies) are all used to humans. Even the Soay sheep come towards you. You can buy their produce in the shop, and have a cream tea.
Really, I'm saving Somerset for another time, but two cider farms were very relevant to this educational theme:
TORRE CIDER FARM, CLEEVE ABBEY, SOMERSET.
Very definitely a teaching farm AND a working farm. Apples everywhere, and more coming in all the time. Pressing going on. Several varieties of cider to taste and buy. Simultaneously, half term, with children feeding apples to the pigs, children filling the cafe, children riding on the tractor, and a good time being had by all.
SHEPPY'S CIDER FARM, BRADFORD ON TONE, TAUNTON, SOMERSET.
Sheppey's are impressive. The buildings are nineteenth century and cider-making has been going on here since the 1840's - no time at all for cider, and an interesting comparison with the medieval BRIMBLECOMBE. In fact cider making hardly changed from pre-history until it became industrial in the 20th century and true cider drinkers do not recognise industrial cider, so it is the facet of farming least affected by change and it instructive to see how Sheppy's produce a farmhouse cider and compete in the 21st century. They seem to excell on both fronts. They do it by mixing the two, apparently without boundaries. Pallets of bottles for supermarkets stand about waiting for collection and in amongst them, the fruit is crushed, the cheese is made and pressed, the visitors taste the finished product and stroll in the instructively labelled orchards, and it all works.
Sheppy's do have a modern press. They do use horsehair cloth instead of straw in layering the cheese. But the process is unchanged, the cider is still matured in oak vats, and it's all on show.
I go on about cider because it is a great indicator of the mood of farming. Only a few years ago, cider was a despised drink; orchards were rotting in all the apple counties, cider mills were garden ornaments. Admittedly, some cider farms had survived, but they were almost a secret society. The first sign of change that I noticed was Copella, who started to make and sell really good apple juice. Now it is everywhere. Not just Copella, which got sold, but apple juice is everywhere. Everyone who has an old apple orchard is talking about having their fruit pressed. Anyone, with a bit of enterprise, can press and sell apple juice. It is delicious, nutricious, almost always organic, and there's a market for it. It is a startling revolution. A revival of interest in farmhouse cider is part of this new appreciation of the apple. And it's English.
At a time when English (and British) farming is being systematically run down by a world order controlled by drug barons, it is exciting to uncover pockets of resistance and reaction. The fact that educational farms are much in demand, the fact that consumers are searching out organic food, the fact that GM crops are facing real opposition, the fact that everyone wants to hear the message of the Eden Project, that fact that people get excited about old apple orchards...all these facts and many more point to a new spirit in farming.
When there are two lively sides to an argument, there will be a synthesis.