Celebrating sustainable farming
Tregullas Farm, the most southerly farm on mainland Britain, was the winner of the National Trust’s first-ever ‘Farming with Nature’ award at its Fine Farm Produce Awards ceremony yesterday.
Against the stunning backdrop of Blenheim Palace, BBC Countryfile’s Ellie Harrison and Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust, presented this special award to farmers Rona and Nevil Amiss in the National Trust Cookery Theatre at BBC Countryfile Live.
'I am delighted that the Fine Farm Produce Awards have generated a special category ‘Farming with Nature’, making the link between award-winning production and the promotion and care of wildlife-rich farmland,' said Helen Ghosh.
National Trust Food and Farming advisers across the country judged the producer who had shown greatest commitment to managing or restoring habitats, demonstrating best practice with soil and water and promoting farming and nature conservation.
'The competition was extremely close but Tregullas Farm stood out,' said Rob Macklin, Head of Food and Farming for the National Trust.
Just three years ago the award-winning ‘Farming with Nature’ Amiss family arrived at Tregullas Farm, perched on the tip of Cornwall. Already they’ve made a huge difference – farming closely with nature to create a healthy, productive and wildlife-rich environment.
As well as producing great meat, cereals, vegetables and eggs the careful way in which they work the land creates the perfect habitat for rare birds and plants, including Cornish choughs and wild asparagus.
Rona Amiss said: 'Farming with nature is deeply rewarding, and so vital. We’re beginning to see a real difference, even in the relatively short time we’ve been here. I was raised in the country and wanted to farm from a young age. The more you see, the more you decide just how you want to work with the land and its precious wildlife.'
Rob Macklin, Head of Food and Farming added: 'Now in its 11th year, our Fine Farm Produce Awards are setting an increasingly high standard for sustainable food production.'
Celebrating the best food and drink
A judging panel of food and drink experts decided the winners – this year chaired by Richard McGeown, executive head chef of Couch's Great House Restaurant in Cornwall.
This year, 27 producers in total were recognised for 49 outstanding food, drink and countryside products ranging from fresh dressed crab and rump steak to raw milk and best bitter. Six new products were awarded for the first time, including unsmoked back bacon from Standley’s Barn, Calke Abbey near Derby and fallow deer venison from Dyrham Park near Bath.
F. Conisbee & Son in Surrey and the Killerton Estate in Devon were awarded Overall Food and Drinks Winners awards respectively.
Neil Conisbee and his family produce meat from their own farm, as well as other tenanted farms in Mole Valley, Surrey. Slow grown and full of flavour, their Attleborough turkey is another well-deserved jewel in the Conisbee ‘crown’. The turkeys are raised in their cattle barns and given quality feed, before the meat is hung for up to two weeks. All this care comes through in the eating – the award judges commented on its ‘lovely, golden colour and sweet, juicy taste’.
As Neil’s son Stephen explained: “It’s all about provenance with us. All our meat is Freedom Food accredited and our philosophy has always been about working with the land, not against it, to produce the best quality meats.
'This is the tenth year we’re been fortunate enough to win a National Trust Fine Farm Produce Award, and to win the overall food award is such an honour for our family. Our great, great grandfather ‘Frederick C’ would be so proud.'
Winner of the Overall Drinks Award, Killerton near Exeter is one of the largest estates looked after by the National Trust, and one of Devon’s most innovative producers.
As pure as can be, its moreish sweet-sharp apple juice is pressed using traditional West Country dessert apples grown in the Acland family’s orchards at Killerton. No chemicals are used and the orchards are a real haven for wildlife. Straight after harvesting, the juice is locally made for sale on the estate.
'Harvesting the apples by hand is a real team effort,' said Fiona Hailstone, Killerton’s Produce Ranger. 'Everyone from volunteers, National Trust staff and locals get involved.
'All the products we make, including our cider, honey and charcoal, are born from a passion to manage the countryside in a sustainable way,' explains Fiona. 'Any profits from sales go straight back into conservation work on the orchards.'