Farm of the Month: Daylesford Organic farm

November’s Farm of the Month is the wonderful self-sustaining, organic farm, Daylesford in Gloucestershire.

Date
November 8th 2013

Daylesford Organics was set up by Carole Bamford on her 1,700-acre estate in Gloucestershire. After visiting a local agricultural show, almost 30 years ago, she became inspired by the then fairly new organic farming movement. She set about converting the family land to organic farming and in 2002 opened the much acclaimed Daylesford Organic Farmshop and café. Passionately dedicated to sourcing top-quality, locally produced food, the business is based on a self-sustaining organic farming model that explores the link between what we eat and where it comes from.

Daylesford now have two farmshops, with cafes in London, kitchen dining and farmshop in Esher, a concession in Selfridges Food Hall and the estate farmshop and café in the Cotswolds, which we visited recently.

We were treated to a full tour of the beautiful farm estate which was incredibly inspirational and were lucky enough to spend time with Richard Smith the Senior Farms Manager and also Tim Field, who is the resident Environmental Scientist. They provided us with so much amazing information that we could probably write a book, however for this blog we asked them both a few questions that we could share with you.

Richard Smith – Senior Farms Manager

What is your role at Daylesford?
As Senior Farms Manager I oversee all the agriculture at the estates. I look after 2,350 acres at Daylesford in Gloucestershire and 3,000 acres at our sister estate in Staffordshire. I also get involved in a great deal more, helping to create a brand all about honest and sustainable produce.

And how about the different rare breeds of livestock that you keep at Daylesford?
I am passionate about breeding livestock fit for the environment in which they are expected to live and be farmed, and in that respect we do rear and keep quite a few rare breeds of cattle and sheep. We have a British Friesian Diary herd, Aberdeen Angus, South Devon Beef and Rare Breed Gloucestershire Cattle. Kerry Hill Sheep, Ryeland Sheep, Cotswold Sheep and the commercial flock we keep are called Lleyn.

With Christmas fast approaching how do you prepare your organic Turkeys at Daylesford?
We keep Traditional Bronze Turkeys here at Daylesford. We receive them as 1 day old poults (the name given to baby Turkeys) usually mid to end of June. They are kept inside in brooders (heated enclosures) to start with for about 6 weeks and then they are let outdoors and totally range free over the summer months. This type of Turkey is perfect for free range and this part is vital for the welfare of the bird.

The next stage is to start to fatten the birds up gradually, I feed them on Oats from the farm. Oats are oil based and this makes the meat lovely and succulent. The perfect Turkey weight is 6kg, so this is what we aim for.

Around 18th December all of our Turkeys are collected up in the middle of the night - the reason being they are all chilled out and relaxed at this time. We use blue lights at night to ensure they are at their most relaxed, again vital for the welfare of the animal. All the Turkeys are killed at the same time in one enclosed area, so there is minimum stress impacted on the birds.

We then receive all of the birds back to Daylesford a couple of days later, prepared and ready for our customers to collect for their Christmas lunch.

Tim Field – Environmental Scientist

Tell us a little about your role at Daylesford. What does an Environmentalist do, as it sounds like an exciting and interesting job?
I have studied both Surveying and Environmental Biology, which means I try and see the commercial perspective of running farm and food businesses, whilst considering how we respect natural resources and interact with the environment. My job’s a bit complicated, so easiest if I explain in terms of our Sustainability Strategy and its five pillars: Farming Organically, Sourcing Responsibly, Protecting Nature, Packaging Lightly and Giving Back.

I leave the ‘Farming Organically’ to Richard, Jez (head of the Market Garden) and their teams of experts but get involved with the environment elements such as habitat conservation and energy generation - like our 1,000 panel solar project.

In an ideal world our ‘Sourcing Responsibly’ would mean 100% organic, from our farm, and I wouldn’t need to be involved at all… as we know that organic certification is the best and independent way of saying ‘sustainable’. But we also like to celebrate fish, wild foods and artisanal produce… and there are some items that we simply can’t grow or find organically… so I help our food buyers devise specific rules about the bits that aren’t organic. And of course, seasonality and locality is important too. ‘Packaging Lightly’ is much the same except I help look at the recyclability, the raw materials, and the design.

I also manage the Grants Programme for the Daylesford Foundation and look out for innovative, enterprising projects that educate children and young people in food, growing and farming. This is part of our ‘Giving Back’ to the community, as well as the many street parties, festivals, farm open days and efforts to get more people aware of where their food comes from.

What have been some of the challenges you've faced this year in respect of the weather?
To be honest, I can’t complain about the weather this year. We’ve generated 178,257 kWh in the beautiful sunshine we had through the summer, and the bee colonies bounced back well after a poor year last year. The late spring and long winter was tough for much of our wildlife but I always think a good cold blast does help to get rid of the parasites, weaker specimens and dominance of the generalists – it’s an ecological health check. Richard may disagree, as we had such a late start to the growing year.

What is your favourite environment in Britain?
The patchwork quilt of well managed mixed British farmland. It is so unique to our little island. Permanent pastures of herb-rich flood meadows and steep escarpments; flowering legumes and pastures in rotation with cereals and other fodder crops; laid hedgerows, stone walls, ditches and tracks given a bit of space to breath. It’s the recipe for all the best things in life… great food, bees, butterflies, newts, trout, snakes, bats, fungi, our immense bird diversity but notably wild game, wildfowl and waders.

Thanks to everyone at Daylesford Farm. To find out more visit daylesford.com

For more behind the scenes images at Daylesford visit our Wild Britain Tumblr