Friday, 26 November 2010

Agrarian Renaissance

On Wednesday, we decided to take a trip to Church Farm before the cold weather hit the region, and I'm so glad we did.

We started in the cafe where we had the all-day breakfast, to try the sausages, bacon, and eggs before we bought anything. MWNN said  the smoked bacon was the best he'd had in a long time, but the sausages were a little too coarse for him - delicious for me.

While we were eating, the owner, Tim Waygood came into the cafe for a coffee and stopped to speak to us. He was pleased that we'd chosen to drive to Church Farm in preference to the 'known' pork producer over at Croppredy. We explained that Ardley was only 20 minute drive from home whereas Croppredy was an hour and a half.

Tim took the time to tell us about his sheep (Black Welsh Mountain and Leyn so much more clever than the local Suffolk breed which has been 'mollycoddled'. Welsh mountain sheep know how to look after themseves.), pigs (Berkshire and British Lop) and beef cattle (Red Poll) as well as the game and poultry. He was interested to hear about Hitchin's Lavender Farm and also about my knitting group. He offered to give the group a tour of the farm should I organise  a visit next year.

After lunch, we went into the farm shop. I spoke to the butcher at great length. MWNN asked for some bacon, which was then packed into 4 separate parcels for easy freezing. We'd decided to buy some lamb for Sunday lunch and the butcher cut exactly the right amount from a boned-and-rolled leg. Some sausages and frozen rib-eye steaks completed our meat purchases for the day.  A dozen eggs, some Lincolnshire cheese and many jars of mustard, horseradish and other accompaniments were then added to our basket.

We won't be joining the '200 Club' of weekly box customers, but we are interested in having our Christmas meat delivered to our local 'drop-off point' (just 500m or so up the main road). MWNN spoke to the shop manageress who told him that they are looking to add to their 'drop-off' points (there are already three in London) and have just started a scheme for delivering weekly boxes to the workplace where 20 or more people sign up).

Church Farm is a remarkable place - a model for the  Agrarian Renaissance.(pdf file) In 1987, the farm was no longer viable. Tim returned from  Reading University and, started MotivAction plc on the farm with a £10 advert. The growth and success of this enterprise enabled the 175 acre farm to be retained. Since then, he's produced an alternative to corporate supermarket consumerism -  a multi-faceted rural hub with sustainable food production and direct distribution.