"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 café called the Dancing Goat in Framlingham.
You might think the goats would supply the café. 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! But now, 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 find 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 www.lanefarm.co.uk
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
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.
"THE WORM WILL TURN"
That is what Dot Boag says when she looks 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 e-diary is dedicated to Dot, who kept us all going during foot and mouth with her courage and compassion. She inspires me still.
Saw Ann Tomkinson at Punchards Farm, Rattlesden, Suffolk
They have a Jersey herd. 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 travelling 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. 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 Café 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 www.bigtom.co.uk
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, Askbocking, 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.
Foxburrow Farm, Melton, Suffolk www.wildlifetrust.org.uk/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, Great 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: 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 www.rozbert.co.uk have a mixed herd of 300 goats and make yoghurt and goat cheese on their own farm. Their garlic cheese is very good: rather dry and crumbly.
Many of these people sell in London as well, but these farmers' markets really are extremely local. Worms are turning in exciting numbers.
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, or whatever you want to say:
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