I visited Stream Farm in Somerset where I chatted to farm owner James Odgers on his model of providing young people like Sam (with no farming background) with the opportunity to run a farm business supplying direct to consumers. James has successfully built a brand around his ‘independent’ ethos where a 300 acre mixed farm can provide ‘a good living’ for a number of families rather than the landowner contracting it out to a large ‘conventional’ farmer as it was prior to him acquiring the farm 10 years ago. James goal is to use Stream Farm as a sustainable model for other landowners to follow and to reinvigorate rural communities.
Meet Vernon who looks after the fishery and processing of the trout for sale as fresh or smoked trout fillets..
Meet Sam who runs the Free Range Organic Chicken enterprise at Stream Farm
Some freshly filleted Stream Farm trout and their vacuum sealed smoked fillets..which made for a delicious lunch.
I borrowed their pickup truck and drove out into a rather banky 26 acre field (in the pouring rain) to see their herd of Dexter Cows
Scooting down the road I met up with Fred who runs Gothelney Farmer a 250 acre farm near Bridgwater where he rears and breeds Mangalitsa and Tamworth pigs supplying direct to Restaurants in London and has the rest of the 250 acre farm in Arable production.
Meet Hereford Bull Jim at Durborough Farm. Debbie and Rob showed me the farm as well as their herd of wild ponies up on the common land that borders their land..
Jim was quite a playful chap…
The wild ponies which graze up on the common ground that adjoins Durborough farm and overlooks the valley..
A quick 5 min spin down the road to up a successful box scheme Plowright Organics run by Richard Plowright Organics..Richard who previously worked in research in Egham 10 years ago put together a business plan and applied for an 80 acre tenant farm to realise his dream. With around 150 box customers he employs a small number of local people and has recently decided to ramp up the marketing side of the business with a fresh design identity and a new website and back office system due to go live soon.
Having tried the delicious Gorwydd Caerphilly cheese at Borough Market one of the cheese mongers at Neal’s Yard Dairy suggested I visit their new cheese making facility in North Somerset, having recently moved from rural Wales to a new state-of-the-art purpose built facility at Puxton Park just outside of Bristol.
It was truly fascinating seeing the cheese being made and talking to founder Todd and project manager Lucy about the move and the marriage of modern technology and artisan methods…
One of the major reasons behind moving was to be closer to a really high quality and reliable source of milk – they now couldn’t get much closer if they tried being around 50 meters from the neighbouring milking parlour with around 200 Friesian and Jersey cows. The milk now travels a mere 50 meters in a gently sloping metal pipe which transports the milk daily from the bulk tank in the parlour to the make room.
Todd’s motto ‘Do one thing really well’. Each cheese is hand turned twice daily in the climate controlled Maturation rooms…
Leaving Puxton Park with a few samples of cheese tucked into my backpack I set off for the Mendip Hills. As I entered the parkland over the cattle grids I was greeted by a herd of wild goats crossing the road…Jumping off my scooter to take a picture or two most of them made for the woods with this lone goat heading in the opposite direction..
I camped the night at Nettwood farm which has amazing views overlooking Blagdon Lake. The next day I scooted down the valley to meet Hannah and Jaks, two of the guys from the Farmdrop for a joint adventure visiting Luke Hassell who runs The Community Farm
We meet some of the growers and volunteers on the farm chatting to them about the weather and what they’re currently harvesting..
Luke’s terrier – I think we may have a new contender for the cutest farm dog I’ve met…
Lukes Bull and Herd of Suckler Cows
Blagdon Butchers, recently opened by Luke supplying the local community and restaurants in Bristol with organic meat from his farm.
In the cutting room at the back of the Butchers.
Asking about lunch options Luke suggested we head up the road to the Yeo Valley canteen and arranged for us to visit their HQ where we were tucked into a hearty meal of bangers and mash followed by strawberries and meringue. After lunch Rachel took us down to the farm where it all began (and incidentally where they filmed the Yeo Valley rap video that went viral) and where they have a substantial processing facility and also still milk around 200 Pedigree Friesians…
Next day and a short drive into Temple Meads, Bristol I met up with urban farmer Steve Glover who runs the salad growing social enterprise The Severn Project with a number of urban farms in Bristol supplying a large number of restaurants. You may have heard his recent Radio 4 interview on his project and it was interesting chatting to him about new entrants and empowering people both socially and financially through growing high value salad on his urban farm sites.
Loved the paint job on this shipping container to this situated next to Steve’s polytunnels, it made wonder what a shipping container farm would look like…
In the restaurant where much of the salad and fresh produce is sourced from the kitchen wall garden..
Polytunnel at the bottom of the walled garden.
Mark who runs the kitchen garden heading to the pub..
Stopping by one of the beautiful dry stone walls in the Cotswolds en route to the Big Feastival..
It was my second time at The Big Feastival and this year seemed even bigger than last.
Being a food revolution ambassador it was great catching up with some familiar faces from the food rev team and seeing lots of really engaged childrens cooking and having fun.
Chatting to the team at Royal Agricultural University we were suddenly joined by Jamie for an official photo call in the Potato patch. Having met Jamie briefly at the BBC Food and Farming awards it was a great opportunity to have a catch up and talk about some of the inspirational projects I’ve met on my road trip.
Leaving the Feastival early the next morning I hit the road…
A highland cow in the Cotswolds? It would have to be The Cotswolds Farm Park. Unfortunately Adam Henson wasn’t in residence but his farm manager Andy showed me around and I was given free reign to photograph his rare breeds many of them as seen on Countryfile..
The herd of White Park Cattle were really something though I was told it wouldn’t be a good idea to hop over the fence to get some closer shots as they can be a bit feisty…
Talking to the guys at Royal Agricultural University stand at the Big Festival about my road trip I was given ex RAU graduate Lizzie’s contacts and looked up her Cotswolds Kid Meat business Just Kidding..Getting in touch last minute Lizzie kindly agreed to meet me for a chat at her smallholding in Leigh.
She sources her kids from a dairy farm in nearby Ross on Wye. Ordinarily they would be destroyed at birth but a canny few farming entrepreneurs are beginning to tap into a burgeoning private and restaurant market for kid meat. Lizzie rears the kids on her 30 acre small holding, initially in a brooder before moving to free range paddocks which are stripped grazed and they also have the option of shelter in ex army barracks sheds. Reared until they are between 4-6 months the meat is very tender and similar in taste to spring lamb but leaner and healthier. Since starting just over a year ago Lizzie has built up a customer base of restaurants and private customers but believes there is still a big job ahead in terms of educating consumers on the benefits of Kid and getting people to try it.
In their army barracks which were originally used for rearing organic poultry on the smallholding.
In addition to selling all the meat direct (Lizzie explained she would be laughed out of the local livestock market if she took them there!) she also saves their skins which are made into rugs and are also being used for Upholstery projects.
I called into Artisan organic flour producers Shipton Mill in Long Newnton near Tetbury..
With many Artisan bakeries buying their flour from Shipton Mill I met head miller John for a quick tour of the mill..
Much of the grain comes from corn harvested on the nearby Duchy Estate…
‘The Engine room’ or where the grain is ground into flour..
The Packing room
You might notice a few of these around your local Artisan bakery..
If it wasn’t for the relatively modern Lorry visiting Shipton Mill is like stepping back in time (in a good way).
Some of the Kune kune pigs kept on the 77 acre organic farm and campsite.
My last stop in the area was Sarah and Paul Jackson who run Stroud Slad Farm an Organic farm just north of Stroud in a stunning valley. They run a small suckler herd of Sussex cross Limonsin cattle and a mixed flock of traditional sheep breeds supplying local customers directly and also do work with horses.
In addition to the livestock they also have a herd garden, about an acre of polytunnels and beds with a group of 12 local people who dedicate 4 hours a week each to growing and in return receive a weekly box of fresh veg. You can also stay at the farm in their Yurt or holiday flat.
A rather lovely looking Artichoke growing in their market garden to finish the update.
Please stay tuned to my next indie farm road trip!