Eat Local Stay Local

When it comes to things to do, places to visit and food to eat, you can’t beat Hampshire! Offering a wealth of attractions and events for all the family, from messing around on the water, wildlife walks deep in the heart of the New Forest, to a picnic full of Hampshire produce to enjoy on those perfect summer days.

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Hampshire offers miles of idyllic countryside to explore, stretching from the South Downs National Park in the east to the New Forest National Park in the west and the North Wessex Downs in the north of the county.

With its unique mixture of rolling hills, chalk streams, country parks and bustling market towns, Hampshire’s countryside offers the perfect rural escape for short breaks or day visits for all the family.

We’ve teamed up with New Forest Escapes a small team who rent five homes on or near the seaside in the New Forest National Park. They specialise in luxury, beautiful and eclectic properties, all of which have a touch of magic. Each has a properly well set up kitchen and enough kit to cook and serve smart meals.

Gins MF kitchen2

Would you like to arrive at your holiday destination, put down your bags and relax without having the hassle of going to the supermarket? How would you like your holiday food waiting for you when you arrive, already packed away? We are pleased to offer a unique local food and drink service supplying the best Hampshire has to offer, delivered and packed away at your holiday destination.

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From five very special cottages on offer, catering from 6 – 10 people, from Beaulieu to Lymington – whether you’re wanting ‘Swallows and Amazons’ beach adventures for the all the family or you’re coming to birdwatch, cycle the Forest or celebrate a milestone birthday, New Forest Escapes help busy families create slow holidays. All holiday places have been designed to be relaxing and interesting family bases from which to explore and enjoy the New Forest.

Gins MF jetty back to house low res

Rachel, who runs the business, says, “Mainly I’m a match-maker. I match houses and people every day. Family get-togethers and 70th birthdays are our mainstay and we go out of our way to help busy people create slow holidays, full of cheap (and luxury) thrills. I signpost people to story-tellers, help organise Alice in Wonderland teas, or just tell people where the best sandcastle and marshmallow cooking beaches are near or at our houses. It’s great fun. We have very creative guests and I especially love helping people cook outside or find fab private picnic spots”.

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Rachel says, “Our top picnic spots are:

1: on the beach at Pitts Deep Cottage. It’s 2 hours from London and has a beach 10 metres from the front door. The beach has private access so there are rarely other people there. It faces the Isle of Wight and gets all the evening sun – amazing for foodie treats and picnics”.

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2: on the Gins Barn jetty (80 metres into the Beaulieu River). Great for low key picnics and it’s just the best place to read a book, nibble on cheese and biscuits, drink some good wine and boat-watch the passing traffic.

3: bonfire in the garden at Eat me Drink me Cottage with the kids. This is a great house for families with lots of kids than like to run wild. It sleeps 10, has a giant trampoline and best of all a bonfire area. Kids can forage for wood. Make their own fire. Cook their own sausages and scoff them down with hunks of fresh bread and tomato sauce. Then roast marshmallows for pudding before racing to the beach 1 km away down the lane and tracking the wild ponies that live there. Heaven.

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It’s lovely to get away, but sometimes you want the freedom of your own place, in beautiful surroundings, and with all the comforts of home. What could be better than having fabulous British free range food from Hampshire/South Downs/Isle of Wight to enjoy on your Hampshire holiday!

When booking a holiday with New Forest Escapes enter NFE30 at the checkout to receive a discount.

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Laverstoke Park Farm

Laverstoke Park Farm

In April, we spent a glorious afternoon being shown around the vast Laverstoke Park Farm owned by 70’s race icon Jody Scheckter. It couldn’t be farther from the F1 race tracks if it tried (although, during the month of August the farm turns over a few fields to CarFest, the brainchild of Chris Evans, in the name of Children in Need!).

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Jody started his organic/biodynamic farm in North Hampshire, in 1996, wanting to produce the best-tasting, healthiest food without compromise for himself and his family. However, he soon realised that as a smallholder this meant he and his family would be eating beef continuously for eight weeks whenever a cow was slaughtered. It was at this point he decided to make the same food available to the public.

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Out of pure curiosity, Jody went on a trip to see water buffalo. The more he learnt about them, from their higher-protein milk, and lower cholesterol meat, to their naturally curious and tactile nature, the more he knew that he wanted to have Asian water buffalo at the farm. They are called Water Buffalo as in the wild they inhabit swampy, wet areas.

Reared in large straw bedded yards, or grassy paddocks, the young buffalo are fed on a completely natural diet of hay, straw, a blend of GM free cereals or grass from clover rich pastures. Buffalo is full flavoured and tender. It can be prepared much the same way as beef without special handling. Buffalo meat is a tasty alternative to beef.

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All the parks wild boar, live their entire lives outside, producing leaner meat which has a richer taste than pork. Wild boar are subject to the Dangerous Animals Act and are kept in a purpose-built outdoor facility incorporating some woodland, keeping them in as natural an environment as possible. From 2008 Laverstoke Wild Boar has not only gained numerous Great Taste Awards but also a Good Pig Award from Compassion for World Farming.

Laverstoke wild boar

Today his farm holds 1,500 buffalo, 400 cattle (Traditional Hereford and Aberdeen Angus), Wild Boar (The original pig), Middle White rare pigs, 800 ancient breed of Hebridean sheep, chickens, turkeys, a vineyard, walled garden producing organic vegetables and herbs, soil laboratory, pet food and an Education Centre (which has already seen 10,000 children from nursery, primary, secondary, colleges and organisations such as Scouts. No longer a small holding, this farm utilises everything from the soil up.

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The farm also has a licensed seven acre site to make their own compost and compost teas (liquid compost), producing around 40,000 tons of compost annually. They even take in green council waste. This is then monitored in their state-of-the-art laboratory and once finished turned back onto the farm for nutrients. This further enriches the soil for them to produce a ‘mixed salad’ containing 31 different herbs, clovers and grasses, feed for their animals. The team believe “you are not what you eat but what your animals eat”. So this near perfect soil goes a long way to helping produce their own feeds as much as possible.

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Jody and his team are currently in the process of making sparkling wine (it cannot be called champagne for the obvious reasons).  At present this is not for public consumption although we were told it was very very nice!

The 2500 acres of Laverstoke Park Farm and the parkland at Laverstoke are certified as biodynamic by Demeter and is classed as organic by the Soil Association. The team have established the only licensed Soil Foodweb Laboratory in Europe to study the activity of different groups of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil.

Eggcellent News

Farmers Choice Free Range Ltd awarded for contribution to farm animal welfare

We are pleased to announce that Farmers Choice  has been awarded a Good Egg Award by Compassion in World Farming in recognition of our commitment to laying hen welfare.

Compassion’s Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards recognise food companies that are making it their policy to produce and source higher welfare good egg 2012eggs, meat and dairy produce.

Compassion has run its flagship scheme, the Good Egg Award, since 2007 to celebrate organisations that source only cage-free eggs. The programme has now expanded to include the Good Chicken Award, launched in 2010, the Good Dairy Award in 2011 and the Good Pig Award in 2012.

Over 287 million hens, chickens, pigs and dairy cows and calves are now set to benefit each year as a result of award winners’ policies.

“We seek to source all our requirements (food, ingredients and other consumables) in a ‘responsible’ way, and in line with our values. To source local and seasonal produce to support British businesses, reduce haulage costs and the environment impact of transport” Director – Farmers Choice.

We source our eggs from Blackacre Farm and they are passionate about producing award-winning free range eggs that are delicious and nutritious. They have been farming for over 35 years and understand that truly free range hens, ducks and quails lay the very best eggs, and we totally agree.

Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming said: “It is so great to see Farmers Choice taking animal welfare into consideration as part of their sourcing policy. Higher welfare produce isn’t just the responsibility of the large corporations, but something that can be achieved at all levels. Well done to Farmers Choice Free Range Ltd – keep up the good work!”

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Get Ready for a Spring Fling!

PINK’S produce their pestos, chilli jellies and chutneys using traditional methods, on the Isle of Wight – pure ingredients are sourced locally, whenever possible and recipes are all made by hand in small batches, using open pans to ensure quality and freshness.

Next-Generation

Inspired by the legacy of her late great, great grandfather’s company, Fiona Pink has taken his working principles (to supply food that was pure and untainted using only the finest ingredients) and has produced an award-winning range of delicious jellies, pestos and chutneys that are not mass produced and are rapidly establishing themselves as store-cupboard essentials – perfect for weekday and special event cooking.

Great Taste gold award winners since 2011, these Pestos are something else.

As we move into Spring, it’s maybe time to move away from the heavy carb loaded meals and move into the lighter dishes.  Below are a few examples of how to use your locally produced jelly and pestos.

Green-Chilli-Jelly

 

Green Chilli Jelly, which goes great with strong blue cheese or as a marinade for chicken or fish.

 

 

Rocket-Lemon-Pesto

Rocket & Lemon Pesto, best with pasta or as a base in home made quiche or pizza bases.

(Reviewed – 14th February 2016 – Fabulous, will definitely make this a regular order – Mrs Burgess, Fareham)

 

Smoked-Tomato-Pesto

 

 

Smoked Tomato Pesto, mix with creme fraiche and coriander and spread on crusty brown bread.

 

Watercress-Wasabi-Pesto

 

Watercress & Wasabi Pesto, bake it with salmon and serve with pasta or salad.

 

 

Basil-Garlic-Pesto

 

 

Basil & Garlic Pesto, use as a base for bruschetta to accompany drinks with friends.

 

 

Smoked-Tomato-Chilli-Pesto

 

 

Smoked Tomato & Chilli Pesto, pour this over your pork loin and bake in the oven.

 

 

Celebrating British Food

We have just come to the end of British Food Fortnight, the biggest annual celebration of British Food and Drink.
Buy British Food FortnightEvery year, since 2002, British Food Fortnight has become an opportunity to promote the benefits of buying and eating from our home produced British Larder.

Britain has so much to offer but it sometimes gets overshadowed by the supermarket giants and their ability to showcase ripe strawberries at the end of September! But with new labelling laws, we can now see where the food has come from – Peru, South Africa, Kenya, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and the list goes on. Have we all forgotten how to eat seasonally?

Choosing British means you will be supporting the local farmer/producer.

Take Charlotte Brown’s Handmade, Catch, Wild Island, Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, Hampshire Honey, Hampshire Chutney Co – all products are produced locally from produce collected within Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Charlotte Browns Handmade

Catch Isle of Wight

Fruit and vegetables always seem to taste better when you know it has just been picked! It is also cheaper if bought in season than out of season. This also affects the carbon footprint.  Seasonal food = Local = little or no carbon footprint, Out of Season Food = more expensive to cover the cost of transportation and freezing or chilling = large carbon footprint.

Wild Island Dressing from Isle of Wight

Cold Pressed Oil Company Ltd

Farmer’s Choice has teamed up with local farmers and producers to bring you the best Britain has to offer. A very high percentage of our products come from Hampshire/The Isle of Wight/the South Downs, and all our meat is British Free Range, reinforcing our ethos of Supporting the British Farmer!

Eat Seasonably Chart

Eating British fruits and vegetables in season is better for your health and your pocket. Foods in season contain the nutrients and minerals that our bodies need at particular times of the year.

British beef and sheep industries are the envy of the world; sometimes exporting our breeding livestock as they are much sought after by farmers in other countries. Our British chicken is the safest chicken meat in Europe!

British pig farmers operate by UK law to standards of welfare that are higher than those of nearly every other EU member state. “Buying pork that is not British means there is a 70% chance that it comes from a farming system that would be illegal in Britain” – extract taken from Love British Food. Farmer’s Choice make sure that not only is all our meat British but it is ALL CERTIFIED FREE RANGE.

Enjoy your Delivery

Mother Nature shows us that at the moment, apples, courgettes, cabbage, cauliflower, plums and squash are all in season.  With the change in temperatures comes the change to our diet, it’s time to dust off the slow cookers and build up that immune system ready for the temperature drops.

We have lots of seasonal recipes online for you to cook your local, seasonal produce, delivered by Farmer’s Choice, direct to your door!

Farmer's Choice Free Range Ltd

Visit to Adlington Turkey Farm

With just a little over 10 weeks till Christmas it seemed the right time of year to go visit Rod at Pheasant Oak Farm to see how our Turkeys are getting on.

Rod’s grandparents originally started farming turkeys back in 1956 and the long-established traditional turkey farming methods learned and passed down shines through at their farm in Warwickshire. The office is a nice mix of the old and the new – the girls are in the old milking shed, a nice touch.

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After a quick catch-up and coffee, we donned our welly boots and Rod took us on a guided tour of the farm.  En route Rod explained that the turkeys are free to roam now, and that only reason they were kept in the barn previously, and it’s not rocket science, before they reach nine weeks old they can fit through the wire fences!  They can also fly, a couple of turkeys were hanging around outside their paddocks so Rob gave them a helping hand back in.

These turkeys get 5* accommodation with a level of care that is unrivalled. The turkeys are all raised by hand using techniques that Adlington has perfected over two generations.  They seem very content in their open air abodes with access to water and food at all times.

adlington award winning turkeys

free range adlington award-winning turkeys

Inquisitive little guys to, they didn’t think twice about surrounding us and trying to get a taste of the welly boots, not nearly as tasty as the ingredients in their diet; cereals plus whole and natural crushed oats from neighbouring farmers (keeping it local). Rod explained that the combination offers high health benefits to the flock with their slow burn fats ensuring the highest quality and flavoursome meat.  Combine this with traditional game hanging and low stress production methods and you will definitely look forward to a succulent and juicy bird this Christmas.

Christmas is coming…the Farmer’s Choice goose is getting fat!

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!

Jane Munns

Jane and George Munns

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.

Goslings

2 days old – so cute!

George and Jane Munns Geese

Farmer’s Choice Geese

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.

Geese and Gosling Shelters

The shelters used for the goslings

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.

Gaggle of Geese

Non stop noise -it’s like being surrounded by football fans, there are couple of leaders getting the rest of them all riled up!

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

Westmoor Farm

Westmoor Farm

George Munns Farm

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