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Hilary Peters' e-diary of real farm food 2002-2005
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 email@example.com
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
“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 a