Godshill Orchards – Isle of Wight

Thatched Cottages in Godshill

Godshill is a picturesque English Village with a medieval church, thatched-roofed cottages and winding main street, boasting some of the oldest architecture on the Isle of Wight.

It can justifiably feel proud that it has within its parish boundaries the only cherry orchard on the Isle of Wight.

Godshill Orchards

Back in 1992 the cherry orchard was conceived, planned and implemented by two well known, distinguished native Islanders and the following year the husbandry of the enterprise passed into the hands of the Medway Family.

The Medway Family, initially from West Wight, formed a partnership with the Pierce family and continue to improve the proud record of cherry production on the island.

Rob Medway and Stuart Pierce (with the support of their families) tend the orchard which contains about 5000 trees, varieties include Colney, Hertford, Lapins, Merton Merchant, Merton Glory, Sasha, Stella, and Sunburst.

Cherry Trees bursting with life

We initially had a flying visit to the orchard at Easter but it wasn’t until we went back in the middle of May that the trees were showing signs of the juicy fruit.

Cherries

Rob and his son Simeon took us on a tour of the orchard showing us the fruits of their labour.

These little fruits come with so many old wives tales and claims. Rob has researched these and published a book on his findings – “The Compleat Cherry”.

We all know the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” but Rob’s research turned up information that cherries may be even better for us. From arthritis to inflammation, eye care to blood pressure the cherry, it would appear, is a super fruit.

Cherry Blossom

The cherry season is from the middle of June until the beginning of August, but with new varieties introduced this could extend the season by a further couple of weeks – good news for us not so much for the pickers.

Cherries need to be picked quickly and put into the cold store. They are picked in the evenings when it’s cooler then put into the cold room from where they are sold/moved to the mainland the next day – Fresh and Local.

After a very nice slice of homemade ginger cake and a cup of tea we were driven to a secret location on the Island to see their latest venture – APRICOTS. UK grown apricots. 1 of only 3 known orchards in the UK to grow apricots and the size of this orchard makes them the biggest apricot producers in the UK.

Apricot Orchard on the Isle of Wight

Back in 2010 they planted 10,000 trees but it would be a further 3 years before they saw any fruit – that’s a long time to wait to see if you’ve got it right but, with the assistance of the apricot growers in France, this year will see a harvest.

Growing Apricots

Simeon, Rob’s son, is in charge of this orchard and tells us it’s been a steep learning curve.  He had recently gone through the orchard thinning out the fruit, which would appear wasteful, especially after a few years of no fruit, but it is a necessity to produce a tasty fruit for picking this year.

Thinning out the Apricots

Apricots should be available from the 14th July and we will keep you informed as to when they arrive.

They will also be growing green gages and pluots (a cross between a plum and an apricot) – so watch this space.

Along with this delicious fruit, they also produce Coulis, JamsChutneys and Juice– each one just as tasty and moreish as the fruit.

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Goodwood Home Farm

Goodwood Home Farm EstateAs many of you may have noticed we are delighted to be selling Goodwood organic milk, cream, cheese and even rose veal and it would seem that every time we go to visit Goodwood Home Farm the sun comes out for us. Goodwood Estate Goodwood Home Farm is set at the heart of the 12,000 acre Sussex estate and is one of the largest lowland organic farms in the UK. One of the 92 fields Goodwood Home Farm manage Organic farming has run through the Richmond family for many years, in fact, The Duchess, The Earl of March’s mother,  was one of the founding members of the Soil Association in the 1950s and passed her passion and knowledge down through the family who are equally dedicated to environmental enrichment, sustainability and the importance of good, healthy food. They very kindly gave us a tour of the farm, we are not jealous at all of their office!!! This is the view from Tim’s window (Tim Hassell, Home Farm General Manager). Dairy cows out enjoying the sunshine Home Farm raise native breeds, some indigenous to the Sussex Downs. The girls in the image are taking a rest after milking. They have a herd of 200 milking cows, mostly Dairy Shorthorn cross with a Sussex bull, a breed which originated in the 16th century. The milk is non-homogenised, to you and I means it tastes just like milk used to as the cream sits on top and you have to shake it before use! The milking and bottling is all done at Home Farm. These girls can produce 30 litres of milk a day each – 15 litres each per milking.very full udder I think this pregnant cow is ready to be milked. Goodwood Milk now online at Farmer's Choice The mothers and calves are kept inside for while after giving birth but the majority of these girls and their calves will stay outside in the grounds of Goodwood all their life. They are fed on forage grown on the estate; this is a mix of clovers, oats, whole crop barley, whole crop silages and wheat, beans and vetches.  They also graze the prime grassland around Home Farm ensuring they are naturally healthy, thus producing wholesome, excellent quality meat, milk, cream and cheese. Dairy cowes just calved Goodwood use the organic milk to make their range of handmade cheeses in the cheese room next to the dairy. Charlton is a creamy, firm textured farmhouse cheese with long rich flavours and a tangy finish. Levin Down is a deliciously rich and creamy soft white cheese which melts in the mouth, whilst Molecomb Blue is an award-winning soft blue veined cheese which is rich, full bodied and irresistible with a dark smokey grey crust having won a gold star at the Great Taste Awards and we stock them all. Sam (Sam Naylor who deals with the wholesale side of the farm) gave us the exciting news that their Charlton Cheese won a Gold Medal, at the British Cheese Awards, in the Traditional Cheddar Category and got Best Organic Cheese – 1st out of 75 entries. Award winning Charlton - hard cheese Their male Dairy Shorthorn calves are fed on the same home grown food as the other cattle. They are allowed to roam outside during the summer months and in deep straw barns year round to produce deliciously tender Rose Veal. Male Dairy Shorthorn calves out enjoying the sunshine The Southdown breed of Lamb has flourished on the South Downs for hundreds of years. Southdowns lambs are bred purely for their meat and graze particularly well on the chalk ground of the South Downs. The leg of lamb won Gold Star at the Great Taste Awards whiles the Southdown shoulder of lamb has been awarded two Gold Stars. The sheep grazing in one of the 92 fields Home Farm manage. All Goodwood produce can be traced every step of the way from field to fork. They are totally committed to the care of their livestock and to the sustainability of the countryside. No pesticides or fertilisers are used ensuring that the wildlife, hedgerows and centuries old natural ecosystem is protected and that the produce is as wholesome as the land from which it comes. We finish up at Goodwood by taking a drive around the estate – not all 12,000 acres, just the fields surrounding the racecourse to get a glimpse at some of the 92 fields they manage.  The Estate views are second to none! Goodwoods Racecourse held within Home Farm Estate Some days are so much better than others.

The Isle of Wight Garlic Farm

Bank Holiday weekends are to be spent exploring, especially for some of the staff at Farmer’s Choice.  Easter was spent on the Isle of Wight visiting many of our producers. One of those was the Garlic Farm, Mersley Farm at Newchurch.

Nestled in a sheltered position below Mersley Down the Garlic Farm is surrounded by unspoilt scenery. The Farm itself is a working farm growing garlic and asparagus, has a shop, restaurant and holiday cottages. If you were to walk up to the top of the chalk ridge you would be rewarded with views of the Island, over the Solent to England and far across the channel.

The highland cattle at the Garlic Farm

The highland cattle at the Garlic Farm

Before we started our tour of the farm and its many fields, Colin (Boswell) sat us in the restaurant where we were treated to a cheeky red squirrel feeding just outside. Unfortunately, the little fella was too quick, I failed to get a photo but I am sure if you visit, you will see him…with a never ending supply of nuts, he won’t stray too far!

Colin starts by telling us the story of the Garlic Farm – Back in the 1950’s his parents moved to the Isle of Wight to take over the running of the farm. His mother was a keen gardener and admirer of the inspirational food writer Elizabeth David who introduced post-war Britain to the rich world of Mediterranean food. She was inspired to conjure up the tastes of Italy and France in her own kitchen but soon realised that a courgette, an aubergine and a garlic bulb were still considered aliens specimens by shopkeepers in the local town. She made room in her kitchen garden and began her search for good garlic planting stock. She soon realised she didn’t have to go very far to get this.

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The many sources and dressings, most of which we have online.

Garlics association with the Isle of Wight begins 30 years prior to this.  The island was being used as a base by the Free French Forces during the Second World War. A neighbouring farmer had owned a pub in Cowes which was popular with French fighters, and missing the taste of home, they asked if he might grow some garlic for them. The neighbour had friends in the RAF who at that time were flying Lysanders in and out of German-occupied Auvergne in Central France, delivering and collecting members of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He persuaded a couple of them to slip a few bulbs into their packs and so the first garlic bulbs were brought back to take root in the Island.

Thirty years later his mother started her first trails with this very same stock. In the late 70s Colin and his wife Jenny joined the family business. It’s now a thriving business with the entire family involved, but in the beginning, to get the brand ‘out there’ they used to drop the kids up to London, and get them selling on the streets and at The Borough Market.  Not necessary now, they get on average, around 200,000 visitors to the farm every year!

After a cup of tea, we are taken to the fields of Garlic spread out around the Island.

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Colin explains about the different varieties.

Green Garlic – Before garlic has fully matured, it can be harvested as green or ‘wet’ garlic. The papery dividers between the cloves have only just started to form, the bulb can be eaten whole, together with the stem. Milder than mature garlic, much like a spring onion. Goes very well in salads.

Hardneck – Produces a flower but this must be snapped off almost as soon as it appears to encourage the plants resources to go back down towards the bulb.

Softnecks – Produces a softer stem with no flowers, more cloves to a bulb and bunched together in tight circles. Varieties include, Early Purple White and Large Provence. This would be the better bulb/clove to cook with, more powerful and will carry on into any dish.

one of the many garlic fields on the Island

one of the many garlic fields on the Island

A new field is a must for planting out fresh garlic and luckily the Island has plenty of available space for this.

Harvest time – they used to do this by hand – that’s some back breaking work, but they now have a machine that does it.  The machine picks up 2 rows of garlic at a time, gives it a good shake and bags it, right there in the field.

The Garlic Farm currently has up to 40 acres of garlic fields.

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Garlic is best kept somewhere dry, to prevent mould, at room temperature, to inhibit sprouting, and somewhere with good air circulation. A clay pot with ventilation holes is ideal. Avoid plastic to prevent mould and only store green garlic in the fridge.

Colin says that as a nation we have become attuned to the garlic odour, that back in the 1980’s if we had got on a bus or train and someone in that carriage had eaten garlic, it would have been overpowering. Maybe it’s just that everyone is eating it now, not only for its taste but for its documented medicinal properties, that we don’t seem to notice it as much or at all.

Serving Suggestions – Stuff a broken down blub of garlic inside a chicken and roast as normal. Then, when you take the chicken out of the oven, remove the cloves, squeeze out the garlic flesh and rub all over the chicken, serve!

Garlic Origins – garlic has been established in many cultures for thousands of years. It is believed that it originates from the hills of Tien Shan (China-Kazakhstan border), as wild garlic. The first records of garlic were in 3,000BC in Ancient Egypt. In 42AD there are records of the arrival of garlic in Britain with the Roman Conquest and 1975 The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight.  It is due to Colin’s investigative work that the garlic grown on the island is the same species that was found in Tien Shan.

Wild Garlic...this can found at the side of roads or fields and is recognisable by the pungent smell.

Wild Garlic…this can found at the side of roads or fields and is recognisable by the pungent smell.

Ben Brown’s Farm – The Isle of Wight

A E Brown Farms are based on the Isle of Wight producing high quality asparagus, sweetcorn, and wide range of vegetables. They are one of the best known Isle of Wight producers and over the Easter break, we went over to visit Ben and his asparagus fields.

Asparagus is one of the most sought after vegetables. Its subtle flavour offers a real treat during the short time it is in season.

Ben's Farm on the Island

Ben’s Farm on the Island

On the tour Ben took us inside a large Farm Building where the asparagus is taken once picked. This is where the sorting machine is, last year this machine processed 70 tonnes of asparagus (250g bunches = 280,000 bunches), an enormous amount of asparagus considering the asparagus season is only 10 weeks long!

This is the machine that trims and grades the asparagus

This is the machine that trims and grades the asparagus

This machine takes the freshly picked asparagus in one end, cleans and cuts it ready for optical sorting, meaning it passes through many cameras inside the machine which is constantly scanning the asparagus for diameter, length, curvature, head shape, and colour. During this sorting process, the asparagus spears are rotated so that 100% of their surface area is photographed. An incredible piece of kit that can process the asparagus from field to packing and fogging (a system that stops the asparagus dehydrating during transport to allow it to remain as fresh as possible) in 45 minutes.

The asparagus beds

The asparagus beds

Ben then takes us to the asparagus beds. These beds are as far as the eye can see, but when we arrived this is all we saw, bear in mind that this was Easter and they will start picking 2 weeks after this!

When planted, the crown will be about the size of a jam jar lid, this will then stay in the ground sending up fresh tasty and edible shoots for approximately 12 – 15 years. Eventually, the crown will become the size of a dustbin lid. Each crown can produce up to 70 shoots during the season.

Asparagus grown by the Brown family, was served as part of the lavish Jubilee banquet attended by Her Royal Highness the Queen and 700 guests at Westminster Hall and was served as part of the banquet for the celebration of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding.  

Once the short asparagus season it’s over to the Sweetcorn production.  At this time, the fields are covered in plastic to protect the young plants from any remaining frost that might still be lingering. Once they are sure the frost is over, the plastic will be replaced with fleece.

This tasty crop will be ready to harvest on the 22nd – 25th July, 2 artic lorries a day will leave this farm ready for delivery to the mainland.

These crops are hand-picked by only 8 workers, that’s a lot of corn.

After the corn is finished the farm moves onto Squash and small pumpkins and after that they go into a steady harvest of cauliflowers.  This farm is constantly on the go.

Ben showing us his fields of asparagus, or, where the asparagus will be in a couple of weeks time.

Ben showing us his fields of asparagus, or, where the asparagus will be in a couple of weeks time.

Interesting facts:

  • The asparagus season traditionally runs from St George’s Day to the Summer Solstice.
  • Asparagus contains A, B and C vitamins, fibre and folic acid, and is virtually fat-free. These nutrients can boost your immune system, maintain healthy skin, nails and hair, and are good for the heart.

The Tomato Stall – Easter Visit to the Isle of Wight

Way back in 2007 when The Tomato Stall began making the commute to London to sell their produce it was market based and the reception they received was almost overwhelming. 

Product Range

Product Range

Encouraged by the fantastic feedback they received they began experimenting and now have an award winning unique tomato inspired artisanal range of products. Driven by a clear passion for all things tomato they have grown quite significantly over the years and now supply a range of farm shops, delis, bars, renowned restaurants and US!

Just before the Easter weekend got into full swing we went over to the Isle of Wight to visit The Tomato Stall.

It was incredibly accommodating of Joni Rhodes and Daniella Tarrant to take time out of their obviously very busy day to show us all around.

We start in the office where Daniella, seen here, is very proud to show us the entire range of their products, we stock quite of few of these now.

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Daniella tells us that in the beginning the original design of labels were applied by hand, but like everything it evolves and grows into what you get today.

Their business might have grown and expanded but they still remember their humble beginnings, and the markets are still very much a part of life for the Tomato Stall, and as we are taken on the tour, we go through a warehouse that is buzzing with activity of getting the produce ready for the Easter Markets. Face to face contact at the market gives them direct feedback straight from the customer, another positive way to help them grow and evolve.

As we wander round the warehouse and the hubbub, we are given little tasters (gotta love this job) and the sweetness that comes from a freshly picked tomato, there really is nothing like it. Daniella then tells us that from the fruit being picked to it being at the market or with the customer it can be as little as 24hrs.  It is no surprise then that three of their tomato varieties have Great Taste Awards, the Piccolo Vine has a 2 gold star Great Taste Award while the Golden Mini Plum and Red Mini Plum have the 1 gold star Great Taste Award.

Sunshine taste explosions

Sunshine taste explosions

The tomato variety – Angelle is so sweet that when tested in a laboratory it registered the same sugar level as a strawberry!

This is where Joni Rhodes takes over with the tour, these girls are totally passionate about what they do and it shows.

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We are driven round to another site to visit the greenhouses, these are not like our little potting shed style greenhouses we have the back garden, these are the grand-daddy of all greenhouses.  They are all different, pitched roof/staggered pitch, another factor helping these plants produce the best possible product. The difference in the shapes and sizes of the roofs is all about the different density of light it allows the plants to receive, also as the months move on and we go into the brighter/hotter summer months, the greenhouse windows may get covered, to protect the plant from the scorching heat or funnel the light/heat directly to the late season plants for maximum growth. As the science behind growing the plants evolves so do the houses that help them grow.

This is where the fancy dress portion of the tour kicks in.  Because we are going into a clean environment, we have to be extra careful not to take any bugs or insects into the warehouse that could infect the crops so … here we are, all catwalk ready.

Catwalk Ready for the Greenhouses

Catwalk Ready for the Greenhouses

The plants in this warehouse have been in since December/January, the main planting time for all the tomatoes here, the first picks came in February, with the main availability starting in the last couple of weeks and they will continue to pick until November. During the winter months the same seeds are grown in their Spanish and Portuguese nurseries, the taste is still exceptional and providing a very long season.

As you can just make out from the image (by the numbers), the plants are tied onto bobbins which once a week, get tightened and hoist the plant up to allow continual fruit bearing with new flowers forming at the head of the plant and fruit ripening towards the base. The fruit bearing part of the plant will not go much higher than 6ft, but the plant height will be 15m or over by the end of the season as the stem keeps on growing.

blog 5Every week a maintenance team go through and cut or pick the fruit. All varieties are regularly tasted by the taste panel, who are all looking for consistency, sweetness and texture.  This information is then fed back into the tomatoes they are trailing.

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This year they set up a time lapse camera overhead of the plants, this showed up some amazing footage of the plants appearing to dance, rising and falling a number of times during the day!

The pollination of all their plants is done by the humble bumblebees. They are housed in small bee boxes that hold a queen and her workers. This may sound strange but they are free to come and go as they please.

 

Busy Bees

Busy Bees

There are vaults at the top of the greenhouses that open and shut according to the temperature and they often find the bees have gone out to the wild flowers that surround the facilities. Not all return, obviously, and they have to replenish the bees during the growing year. Their nursery has Conservation Grade status, meaning that they are ethical, sustainable and Fair to Nature. 10% of their land is given back to natural habitats including wild flower meadows, barn owl boxes and red squirrel houses.

Not all the tomato plants are organic but the principals of organic growing are maintained across the whole nursery. The organic plants are grown in soil beds on the floor in a natural compost and non-organic are grown in coconut husks.  The Tomato Stall have been producing their own nutrient rich compost for the last 6 years from the plants themselves.  During the growing year, when the plant is cut, thinned out or finished, it is kept to dry on the floor. Then at the end of the year when they totally strip down the nursery for cleaning, the plant waste is gathered up and composted producing their own high heat compost.

The plant is left on the floor not only to dry out but, during the growing season even these nurseries will suffer from plant pest but, as they embrace organic principles they utilise biological control across the nursery. Here they use natural predators and vials of bug eating bugs are released into the nurseries to deal with this.  The plant waste within the nursery provides additional environment for this mico-cosmic ecosystem.

The Greenhouses are kept at an optimum temperature for the plants, when required, by rails all over the floor. Heated water passes into the glass houses from their compost facility.

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At the end of the growing year, the entire nursery is stripped down and washed. Their entire growing system is completely biodegradable, from the coconut husk that the plants are grown in to the string that supports the plants. Even the plastic flooring is recycled into bin bags at the end of the season!

Almost Ready

Almost Ready

If time-lapse videos simply aren’t enough, how about the chance to come and see first-hand what goes on behind the scenes at Tomato HQ? This year they are delighted to be taking part in Open Farm Sunday, and on the 7th June will be opening up sections of the nursery to the public. It’s the 10th anniversary of the event, which is organised by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and they are very excited to be joining in the fun.

For more information visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

 

What’s In Season for March

The evenings are getting lighter, the days are becoming warmer and everyone can feel that Spring is right around the corner, even the birds know it, their morning song starts way before my alarm now!!!

Sure sign of Spring

Sure sign of Spring

Even the fruit and vegetables are starting to become spring like.  Right now the veg at its best is:

Cauliflower, Celeriac, Cabbages, Leeks, Parsnips, purple sprouting broccoli, spring onions, swede and young carrots.

Our purple sprouting broccoli and white sprouting broccoli are looking very fine. The white sprouting broccoli should be marked “fragile – handle with care”. With its tiny heads held within the tight curls of its protective leaves, this variety needs to be in the pot for even less time.

What about the Meat well…Think of Spring and Lamb comes to mind. Lamb recipes are full of the taste of spring and below are some cracking recipes created just for us, using our Free Range Meat.

A Simple Stew of Lamb – “I love the simple things in life. They always please, no matter what” – Marie Rayner

Navarin of Lamb – “The recipe was influenced by two other recipes, the memory of how a Colman’s casserole mix used to taste, plus what was already in the ingredients cupboard! So simple to make – the recipe works beautifully as the payoff in flavour is wonderful provided you cook it low and slow.” Jenny Davies

Lamb Koftas – This recipe is suitable for the AIP (autoimmune protocol diet), paleo, primal and elimination and clean eating diets. There are no grains, no dairy, no gluten – just a big plate of nutritious loveliness. – Jo Romero

Spring Lamb Salad  – A great treat for Lamb Lovers – Melanie Edjourian

Eat The Seasons!

 

Do you know where your meat comes from?

 

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Can you decode the jargon used to distinguish different types of meat and its origins? Indoor Bred, Outdoor Bred, Outdoor Reared and Free Range – all clear if you understand the meaning behind the label, misleading if you don’t.

Indoor Bred – (All pigs stay indoors) The pigs live their entire life indoors, commonly on hard solid floors with straw or similar material for bedding.  A pigs’ natural instinct is to forage – get its snout in the mud and forage for food, the indoor bred pig will never get to do this. Sows may still give birth in farrowing crates – this restricts the sows’ movements and the piglets only have access to her to feed. There is no access to the outdoors, although they get to move around freely within a pen, they are kept in small groups so there is less likelihood that there will be conflict or tail biting,caused by boredom.  Pigs are social creatures, their social behaviour is highly developed, new born piglets begin to form social dominance relationships with littermates within hours of being born!

Outdoor Bred – (Breeding herd outside free range but pigs reared for meat inside). The breeding females or sows are kept free range in paddocks, outdoors, with huts for shelter and straw for bedding. Around 4 weeks after the sow gives birth the piglets will be weaned, being taken away from her and moved indoors and fattened in extensive and intensive conditions. In this system the sow will have the higher quality of life and is able to act naturally – nesting, rooting, wallowing and foraging. The piglets only get this quality until they are weaned.

Outdoor Reared – (Breeding herd outside free range with pigs reared for meat outside but unable to roam freely). The sow, again, gets to live her life outdoors naturally and the piglets are weaned at the same time. They are reared in pens outside but unable to roam as in a free range system.

Free range: Breeding herd and pigs reared for meat outside free range

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Free Range – Whilst there is no legal definition of ‘Free Range Pork’ a voluntary industry code in the UK requires that free range pigs have permanent access to pasture, they are born outside (without stalls or crates) and are then reared outside throughout their lives. On the best free range pig farms, the sows and the growing pigs are kept outside for their entire lives.

Blog 9All Farmer’s Choice meat is FREE RANGE and our pigs are no exception. On a bitterly cold morning at the end of January we went to see Richard and Aimee on their free range pig farm in West Sussex. Their farm sits in the South Downs and enjoys a real countryside vista. Richard and Aimee have been raising free range pigs for over 12 years, producing first class pork from traditional breeds and are proud to be one of a few free range pig farmers in the South of the UK.

The breed raised on the farm is The Duroc. Their thick winter coat and hard skin allows them to survive the cold and wet of the British winter. This coat then moults in summer to leave the pig looking almost bald but able to cope with hot dry summers. Its tenacity in looking after its young combined with its docility between times makes it an ideal candidate for an outdoor pig producing succulent pork.

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On the tour of the farm, we are shown several distinctly different areas.  One houses the gilts (a young female pig that has not yet bred/first time mum), sows waiting to be mated again, pregnant sows and the boars. They are in fields that look like a semi-circular sundials with a hut in the middle, a pivot point. That way Richard can bring the boar down to the pivot point and place him in whichever section he wants (to mate) without too much stress to the boar.

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The pregnant sow has a particularly precise gestation period of 114 to115 days (3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days) and when she is ready to have her piglets she is moved into the maternity of “farrowing” area which has the individual huts for her and her piglets, she is given lots of straw but even in the middle of our cold winters, inside the hut is toasty warm. For the summer Richard paints the huts white to reflect the sun so they don’t bake inside (4º difference, which might not sound a lot but very important to a pig).

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Richard has the breeding set up so the Sows give birth 3 weeks apart, in one area are the new mums, then the next one is filled with piglets running around, following mum, rooting around in the mud, learning to use the wiggle feeders.

Richard will only breed the sows for 6 litters. He tells us that after the 6th litre the sow tends to become clumsy even laying on the piglets, eating too much of the food – not letting the piglets get enough.

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In another field are the adolescent pigs, they have so much space to wallow, run eat, drink etc. Pigs do tend to carve up the ground wallowing and foraging so they are constantly moved round to ensure that they always get the best of everything. This lot are due to be moved to the green pasture in the background in April.  Here they will live out their lives, naturally growing fat. The large tent in the middle is where the pigs are weighed.

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Richard and Aimee wanted a completely stress free life for the pigs and here on this farm is exactly what that is.  Even down to their final days the pigs are kept in their field, just moved down to the transport vehicle hours before they leave the farm.

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Britain is only about 25% self-sufficient in bacon and 70% in pork, meaning it imports large quantities of pig meat, which farmers in the UK complain comes from animals generally raised in worse and more intensive indoor conditions, including in much of the EU. But the RSPCA’s Julia Wrathall said even in this country “a significant number” of the 9 million animals reared for meat each year “are living out their lives in unacceptable conditions”. – (extract taken from theguardian.com/ethicalfood-animalwelfare)