Following the launch of the Fine Farm Produce Awards in 2006, farmers and growers from National Trust estates have been encouraged to enter their best food and drink to be judged for these prestigious awards. The emphasis is very much on delicious tasting, top quality produce but also on rewarding and supporting producers who hold animal welfare, local production and traceability as key.
The requirements are rigorous: producers must meet with National Trust environment standards and, for livestock and dairy products, be certified organic or Freedom Food (RSPCA) assured. And of course the products have to look, smell and taste superb. A taste panel makes sure of these three criteria by testing for appearance, aroma, texture and flavour. The winners have to pass high production standards and satisfy the taste panel judges to be worthy of the award.
Here we are showcasing five of our winners. To read about the rest visit our website: www.nationaltrust.org. The photographs were taken by two National Trust photographers, Jason Ingram (www.jasoningram.co.uk) and William Shaw (www.williamshaw.com).
Big Red Cow
Red Devon Beef
First time winners
Woodcocks Ley, part of the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Exmoor, is home to a herd of 130 pedigree Red Devon cattle.
Tracey and Simon David farm the land, 850 feet above sea level, producing and marketing their beef under the Big Red Cow brand.
‘The Ruby Red Devon is a very traditional, small, slow growing breed which produces a beef that’s full of flavour’, says Tracey. The Awards’ judges agreed, praising the beef for its flavour and texture too. ‘My father and grandfather farmed this breed here before us so we are keeping that tradition’, says Tracey. ‘We used to sell the cattle at market but in 2010 decided to try selling our own meat directly to customers.’
Simon had worked as butcher for 25 years so they rented a cutting room and cold room at another local farm and started work. The couple have used agricultural shows across the UK, including the Bath & West, Royal Welsh and Norfolk shows, to sell and market their beef. ‘Our farm is so remote there was never any point in expecting customers to come here – so we have had to take our product out to the customer’, says Tracey.
Whilst steaks and roasting joints sold well, much of the lesser-known cuts were left so, in October 2010, they built a commercial kitchen at the farm. Here Tracey and Simon work with a local lady called Carole Burt to cook meals using mince and other cuts. ‘We make things like cottage pie, lasagne, chillis and stews, portion them up and sell them through 16 local village shops. It’s a really premium product that’s going down very well – it gives people without the time to cook the chance to have a really good quality convenience meal made with local beef.’
‘We’d really like to start supplying the local community and get our beef into schools and hospitals.’
‘We’re trying to get our name out there and say ‘we are here’’! says Tracey. ‘Winning this award will definitely help us raise our profile. I’m so pleased that the National Trust runs awards like this to recognise really good food.’
Light Golden Ale
First time winners
The ale is made by Justin Jacobi in a converted cowshed on a farm in Pumsaint, Carmarthenshire, on the National Trust’s Dolaucothi estate.
Justin leased out his pub, the Brunant Arms in nearby Caio, five years ago and set out to develop traditional ales in his eight-barrel brewery. Today the Light Golden Ale is one of a range which also includes Beekeepers’ Delight, Red Squirrel, Winter Warmer and Cwrw Haf (Welsh for Summer Beer). ‘Until about a year ago I was only selling to local pubs but I’m now bottling some of the ales and they’re on sale in local shops and restaurants as well as at National Trust properties’, says Justin.
‘I was working on perfecting the recipes before taking the plunge into the wider market.’ The Golden Ale is made with a Willamette hop. ‘It’s quite floral and gives almost an elderflower taste’, says Justin. ‘It’s very good with food as it really cleanses the palate. With all our ales we use quality ingredients and original recipes which produce well hopped, traditional beers.’
Justin’s future plans include working with the Trust to develop a new brewery tap and shop/café next to the brewery. ‘I’m very pleased to have won especially as this is the first time I have entered any awards. This will really help me to pick up the profile of the brewery.’
First time winner
This juice was praised for its ‘true apple flavour’ by judge Karen Barnes.
It is made from apples hand-harvested from an orchard within the Trust’s Parke estate at Bovey Tracey on Dartmoor. Gus Fergusson, head ranger on the estate, explains: ‘We replanted the orchard in 2000 on the site of an original Devon cider orchard. This juice is made from our second good crop of apples, which we harvested in September 2010.’
There are around 150 trees in the orchard, made up of 15 different apple varieties including Killerton Sweet, Devonshire Quarrenden and Hangy Down. The Trust team at the estate is supported in looking after the orchard by volunteers, most importantly at harvest time.
‘Picking the apples is a very manual task and we need all the help we can get,’ says Gus. ‘We’re looking at getting volunteers through the Trust’s working holiday scheme this year – it’s actually quite a fun, community task.’
The harvested apples are taken to small local processor, Real Drink in Stoke Gabriel, for crushing, pasteurising and bottling. Around 1,000 litres of juice were made this year, and the juice is being sold at National Trust cafes and shops on Dartmoor, with profits going back into helping conserve the orchard. Gus says the secret to the very refreshing taste of the juice is in the apple varieties used: ‘Lots of the apples we grow in the orchard are actually cider apples.’
‘When we planted it that was the route we planned to go down, but when it came down to it we felt that there was as much demand for juice as cider.’
‘I’m amazed and really pleased with our award. It’s really good news for the team and all the volunteers who helped out too.’
Yew Tree Farm
Previous winners 2009, 2010
Yew Tree Farm has already won Fine Farm Produce awards for its Belted Galloway Beef and hogget lamb, but this year was the turn of the Herdwick mutton.
The 600-acre farm, near Coniston in the Lake District, is run by Jon and Caroline Watson. Caroline explains that the mutton is a new product which they have only just started selling to customers. ‘Herdwick sheep are a traditional native breed and suit perfectly the Lake District’s wet, harsh landscape. They are also slow-growing and so perfectly suited to mutton, which comes from sheep over two years old,’ she says. ‘The sheep have a natural lifestyle, and are reared very slowly on a mixed diet, which includes grasses, herbs, heather and bilberries – this really adds to the flavour.’
Caroline says the mutton isn’t overly fatty because of the sheep’s diet. ‘The meat is beautifully marbled and so remains very moist on cooking. It’s also higher in unsaturated fats than many meats because of the diet of the animals.’
Judges agreed that the flavour and texture of the meat was excellent. Phillipa Green said she loved the meat’s ‘good strong fragrance and flavour’ and Karen Barnes was also a fan, saying she ‘liked the chew of it.’
‘Winning the award is such a great way for us to showcase our products’, says Caroline. ‘A quality award associated with the National Trust gives us a lot of kudos – it really is something to boast about and it really helps our publicity.’
If I was cooking it myself I would cook shoulder or leg long and slow, for 12 – 24 hours, with flavours like mint, rosemary and red wine. This really allows the rich dark flavour of the meat to come out. It’s also great for Moroccan tagines or a madras.
Wimpole Home Farm
Organic Chicken Eggs, Organic Duck Eggs and Traditional Breed Beefburgers
Previous winners 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010
‘The flavour of the meat is Wimpole Home Farm, where the Trust’s online farming experiment ‘MyFarm’ is based, entered
and won with three new products this year.
Chickens and ducks were only introduced here in March and their eggs have already won awards. Judge Richard McGeown said the duck eggs had a ‘nice deep coloured and silky yolk, with rich flavours’ and the hen eggs, said Lynda Brewer, were ‘really tasty with a very yellow yolk.’
Richard Morris, Farm Manager at Wimpole in Cambridgeshire, explains: ‘This is quite a small scale operation – we have 330 hens and 50 ducks. They have freedom to roam about all day and lots of lush grazing and places to peck and scratch and we also feed them locally grown organic feed.’
At the moment the hens are laying just over 2,000 eggs every week, and the ducks around 400. Most of the eggs are used at the Wimpole restaurant and shop and the nearby Anglesey Abbey Restaurant. ‘We’re also supplying some local pubs and shops’, says Richard. ‘They’re very popular and we can’t meet demand for the duck eggs.’
‘We don’t have plans to get much bigger though – we may go up to 500 hens. The idea was very much to set up a unit and use it as a pilot to see how it might work on other Trust farms. The Trust buys a lot of eggs and we felt that we could be producing more of our own eggs.’
Wimpole beef burgers also picked up a Fine Farm Produce Award. ‘The flavour of the meat is very good and they are perfectly seasoned’, said Karen Barnes. The burgers have been sold in the restaurant for many years but due to their popularity are now available to purchase in packs of four through the farm shop. They are made using the estate’s award-winning beef from rare breed cattle. The burgers are made at Suffolk Meat Traders and then sold in the farm shop.
‘The awards are important to us’, says Richard. ‘Everyone works very hard here and takes a lot of pride in their work so it’s nice to have that recognised by the judges.’
National Trust: www.nationaltrust.org