Macaroni Farm, in the heart of the beautiful landscape around Eastleach Turville and Eastleach Martin, in Gloucestershire, has been in the Phillips family since 1891, when Samuel Phillips took over the tenancy of what was then a farmstead within the Hatherop Estate. Now his grandson Charles, and great- grandson Sam, are farming nearly 1000 acres of pasture land, grazed by 1000 pedigree Lleyn sheep and 100 Aberdeen Angus X South Devon cattle, as well as nearly 800 acres of arable land, laid down in crop rotation, to wheat, barley, triticale and fodder radish.
I first caught wind of their name through eating out at places like The Kingham Plough and Made By Bob in Cirencester and going to a cookery course at Thyme at Southrop, where they supply meat. I came to meet Sam Phillips, who is now spearheading a new initiative to bring Macaroni Farm to a wider platform, using both the Internet and social media as well as traditional retail methods.
The story goes that during the Georgian era a group of Italian dandies (the “macaronis”) used to stable their horses at the farm, and in 1863 they won both the derby and 2000 Guines races. The name evidently stuck, but as you drive around the farm now you could not imagine a more English landscape, with large grass fields framed by dry stone Cotswold stone walls and holly, hawthorn, dogwood and blackthorn hedges.
There are four full time stockmen and tractor drivers that work on the farm, as well as Charles and Sam, and between them they also manage the Higher Level Stewardship programme that secures the biodiversity and eco-systems of their land.
On our tour, we see herds of chocolate brown South Devon cows lying in the Autumn sunshine and flocks of ewes that are grazing on fields: the huge, open south Gloucestershire horizon yawns in front of us in a never ending 360 degree frame.
To give depth of flavour to the lambs they serve the ewes with Charolais rams, and the flock breeds its own replacement ewes so that the risk of disease being brought in from elsewhere are mitigated.
“It’s not enough to farm here, we actually have to look after the whole landscape, we are its custodians” Sam tells me. “We plant beetle banks and grass banks that are seeded with quinoa and wild flowers, for both the bird and insect population. In the summer we have phacelia flowering for the bees, and of course they love the clover as it is all nectar rich,” Sam explains.
Through the farm the River Leach runs its course and nearby is a very large, mature wood, providing a natural habitat for a wide range of wildlife. There are two shoots on the farm, one is for reared and released partridges and one is for wild birds, such as pheasants.
“As well as beef and lamb, we are aiming to provide oven ready game direct to customers,” Sam told me, “so that people can enjoy the benefits of fresh game straight from the field to their freezer, with no plucking or drawing. Boxes can be delivered or collected straight from the farm, and, in the long run, this is going to prove much more economical than buying meat from a supermarket. Not only is the provenance assured but, in a recession, buying, say, a whole carcass, can work out much cheaper.”
There is a very significant revival in education in butchery and game and Macaroni Farm hopes to be able to offer courses as well as direct sales. Sam is creating a new website containing recipe ideas for really simple, home cooked meals that show off the flavour of the lamb, beef and game to their full potential. He is very much influenced by the work of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and “The Ginger Pig Meat Book by Tim Wilson and Fran Warde.
“I think now, more than ever, people are really concerned about animal husbandry and when they come to our farm there is no middle man, they are buying straight from the producer. They can see the ideal, organic conditions in which the animals are reared, and we do not sell meat from anywhere else.”
The Foodie Bugle is going to keep all the readers updated on the news and events at Macaroni Farm, but in the meantime, if you wish to order directly from the farm, here are all the contact details:
Cirencester GL7 3NG
Telephone: 01367 850237
E-mail: [email protected]
Follow the farm on Twitter: @MacaroniOrganic