The seeds of anticipation were sown a while ago. Using social media over several weeks, a whole group of food bloggers and food lovers plotted, planned and arranged a get together at Daylesford Organic Farm in Kingham, Gloucestershire this weekend. Not only would it afford us an invaluable opportunity to finally meet after months of food cyber chatter, so we could swap foodie stories, blogging tips and gourmet travel insight face to face, it would also give us all the chance to see the seasonal offering at the farmshop and be brought up to date with all the latest trends in this paradigm amongst organic farms.
The day started in the Café restaurant, with introductions, coffee, four different types of cake, chatter, laughter. Discussing topics as far ranging as family recipes, social change, organic education and blogging technology, we gossipped and confided as if we had known each other for years. Such is the spontaneous immediacy of food blogging, uniting strangers and nationalities in the most visceral and joyous of pleasures, home cooking.
Richard Smith, the farm’s manager, came to chat to us about the herds of deer, sheep and cattle at Daylesford. He is a man so passionate about his craft and responsibilities on the estate that we could have spent a whole day listening to him alone. Our host shepherds for the day, Rosie Henderson and Camilla Wilson, looked after their flock with pride and conviviality, showing us the various shops and barns, through glass doors leading out into gravel topiary gardens framed by wicker fencing and Cotswold stone walls
We wandered round the farm shop, mesmerised with a childlike gaze at the fresh breads, cheeses, groceries, meats, fish and homewares. Pig carcasses hung on butcher’s hooks. Wicker baskets overflowed with now elusive purple sprouting broccoli and rose pink Yorkshire rhubarb stems. Mouths opened in awe, fingers pointed high and low, inquisitive disbelief mounted. “Do they have a stylist who comes every season?” “Do they really make all these fresh cakes themselves?” “Is everything sold here really organic?” “Are all these plates really handmade?” Yes to all of the above, and onwards.
We were allowed into the inner sanctuary of the cookery school where its head teacher, Vladimir Niza, was in full swing showing his students how, when, and why to seal meat. The tender leaves of new dandelions in wicker baskets filled with black, homemade compost stood on aged butcher’s blocks; paper white narcissi were dotted in clumps in glazed hand-thrown clay pots. Cameras clicked, eyes absorbed and questions asked, the smell of caramelised meats encircling us.
Into the reception area of the cookery school, we filed past the burning log fire and pale lights revealing the Daylesford cheese room through a beckoning glass partition. An affineur’s paradise, giant wheels lay maturing and ripening on slatted wooden racks, silent trophies to the artisanal skill that is imbued in the work ethic of this mother ship.
And so to lunch, past the heritage apple orchard and white wooden beehives towards the glass eco building. It was the small, meticulous, ergonomic details that caught our attention. From the top of the green roof, heavy metal chains drained rain water into oak barrels. Large, stacked wooden containers revealed composting wormeries. Animal water troughs were used as planters for tender salad leaves, and the wicker kitchen garden, with its anticipatory, dormant, gaping beds, awaited the first signs of spring.
In the eco building giant platters filled with jewel coloured salads, cured meats, pies, several types of breads, relishes and pickles were laid out by a waiter explaining their provenance and preparation. Freshly squeezed juices in tall jugs and hand blown, white rimmed glasses layered with stripes of rhubarb compote, creamy syllabub and crushed oatmeal biscuits were followed by coffee.
As the gossip and stories filled the afternoon, we accomplished a late but enthusiastic and frenzied shopping spree and last look round. The hours had flown in minutes, it had all felt like a special, private party.
We schemed that our next reunion, could, auspiciously, be scheduled for the Daylesford Summer Festival, on Saturday 21stMay, with the promise of cookery demonstrations, tastings, farm tours and a talk by the still, small voice of pilgrim calm, Satish Kumar. Food bloggers, have diaries at the ready, this is the stuff your WordPress dreams are made of.
For further information about Daylesford: www.daylesfordorganic.com
You can follow Daylesford on Twitter: @DaylesfordFarm
Food Bloggers who took part:
Helen Best – Shaw, author of food blog www.fussfreeflavours.com
Martin Yarnit, author of food blog www.tasteofbologna.blogspot.com
Pascale Cumberbatch, author of food blog Extra Relish, at www.pascalecumberbatch.com
Victoria Whittard, Splat Cooking manager at www.splatcooking.net
Orly Lyndon, commercial photographer at www.orlylyndon.com
Rupert Parsons, owner of Womersley Foods at www.womersleyfoods.co.uk
Mark Glynne-Jones, owner of multi media marketing company www.jumpto.co.uk