George, Jane and Lucy Munns run Westmoor Farm which is part of the Cambridgeshire County Farm Estate situated in the heart of The Fens. The Munns family have farmed here since October 1959 when George’s dad Lionel took on the tenancy of a 21 acre smallholding and an old farmhouse, funded from £100 pools win!
George now has 700 acres and the farm cropping (Potatoes, Sugar Beet, Wheat and Oilseed Rape) is still very much that of a traditional Fenland farm and has changed little since then except for a flock of free range geese.
George took over the farm in 1989 when his father retired but it wasn’t until 1999 that they started rearing Free Range Geese, with just 20 locally hatched birds.
Today they have 1,300 geese. They come in as day old goslings (after being hatched in Germany) and are reared under Gas Brooders until about 2 weeks of age when they are allowed out to roam free, initially with the use of a night time shelter. If they let them out any earlier they risk being predated by hawks or foxes.
The birds are free range although they are confined to about 8 acres and surrounded by an electric fence to keep the bushy tailed predators out! They come in and go out as THEY please. Their wings are not clipped, they stay purely for the feed and relaxed environment. The geese are fed on an additive free diet (from a local supplier) and home grown wheat.
The flock get a vet check twice during the time they spend here (usually from the 18th June through to the 8th December) – George and Jane want to see their poultry cared for from start to finish.
When the time comes to cull, the birds are dry plucked then waxed to remove the fluffy down. At this time a local group of workers are drafted in to help with the processing. After the birds have been hung, up to 10 days to enhance the flavour, they are then dressed and cleaned before being boxed and prepared for delivery to Farmer’s Choice. Everything is handled on site in purpose built buildings supervised by DEFRA vets and local Environmental Health Officers.
Hardly anything goes to waste on this farm, the unused bits of bird are boiled to produce the irresistible goose fat. The fat keeps for months in the refrigerator and up to a year in a good freezer. The feathers are sold for duvet and pillow stuffing.
Our birds will be between 5.5kg and 6kg – enough to feed around 6 people.
Roasting a goose makes a very festive meal. The goose is different to turkey because the goose meat is intensely meaty and flavourful and cloaked in that layer of unbelievably rich, crispy skin.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKI-pgzBFWc – Countess of Wessex investigates Munns Rapeseed Oil
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-RXcibnCl0 – Draining the Fens
Situated 1.5miles west of the historic market town of Chatteris in the Fenland area of East Anglia. The landscape here is Agricultural, one of open fields decorated with a mosaic of ditches and drainage channels. With an unrivalled open horizon and magnificent sunsets, this area is unique in the UK, an area we are immensely proud and privileged to live and work in. My own passion after farming, has always been nature and wildlife conservation. As a small boy I had a huge number of wildlife books and spent all the spare time I had exploring across the farm, looking for and identifying all the many species of flora and fauna that lived here. I had a chance in 2001 to join the prestigious Countryside Stewardship Scheme I signed up with the enthusiasm of a small boy…!! I immediately got to work with the help of the local drainage board building a brand new 5 acre reed bed. I specifically wanted to provide habitat for many of “the species of my childhood”, that sadly were getting endangered due to modern farming practices. Our reed bed was later to become a “Blue print” for other farmers to follow in the years to come. I wasn’t aware at the time but I was embarking on a journey that was as fruitful and rewarding as any I could imagine. – George Munns