What's on your plate?


Farm to Fork is about knowing where your food comes from, how it’s grown and raised and reducing the chain from farm to table.

Blog readers will know we are passionate about local produce and we are working with The Angel Inn at Stoke by Nayland to supply beef and pork for their kitchens.

Farm to Fork came about when Head Chef Mark Allen asked if we would supply  beef to The Angel.  Mark had heard about our Nayland Beef from a chef friend in a London hotel in Mayfair.  Mark was keen to take his sourcing a step further and support local, small-scale and artisan producers by buying direct to bring the best local ingredients onto the menu.  So we got to talking and I suggested embracing all stages by getting involved and rearing pigs at Lower Dairy Farm exclusively for the Angel kitchens.  And here they are!  Our three large black piglets surveying the mammoth task ahead; a jungle to explore, snuffle and munch their way through complete with hazelnuts, acorns and burdock roots to excavate - piggy bliss!

We want people to follow the story from pig to plate and engage in how their food is grown and raised.  So step away from the supermarket shelves and get down to your local farm shop and whilst you're at it, pop into your local for a drink and a Lower Dairy Farm steak!  Mark is a genius in the kitchen and we can't wait to see what he will produce from our tasty Horkesley Porkers.

Work to be done...

The newest arrivals to the farm, three Berkshire weaners.

These pigs are tasked with clearing the farmstead we call 'Bethlehem'.  Formerly a cattle yard and shed (hence the name), this area is somewhat overgrown - a des res complete with harrows, a seed drill, a plough and the remains of a cart used to transport casualties in WWI (so the story goes).  We've cleared away all things sharp and nasty and today the Horkesley Porkers were released to dig and snuffle their way through the site.  Free-range living at its finest!

A Sty with a View

The piglets are now happily ensconced in their new quarters - open plan studio apartment (ark) with uninterrupted views across the river to Nayland Airfield, cricket bat willows and general Stour loveliness. Ever considered living in a sty?  I have.

This 'pig's-eye' view of the world shows how perfect the site is for the trio, but they'll have to work for that view.  In fact, once they make it to the end of the track, they add Wiston Mill to the panorama.

To thank them, we generously removed the Take Put found beneath the brambles.  And if you were wondering what this does, Dad's description "You take things, and put them somewhere else...somewhere you forget about them." is pretty accurate.  He's been searching for this for some time, so has taken it...and put it somewhere else.  Circle of Hell right there.

Thank you to Fryers Farm Shop for the huge quantity of windfall apples.  Like ill-disciplined children, pigs like to play with food and are enjoying rolling them under the fence as an excuse to retrieve them.  We believe they too may be trying to get to Wiston to play with Reggie.

With the piglets settling in, we were joined by a festive offering:

Farmers' luck, calving started 20 minutes before we were due to leave for the carol service.  Fortunately, 'No 1's Calf' is a pro and it was born and up within minutes, so  Humph escaped to deafen the dignitaries of Colchester with a piccolo 'Top G' in  'Angels from the realms...A performance praised by the Mayor himself.  It never ceases to amaze us that even after a lifetime of farming, with farmer hands hewn from endless baler twine knots, he is able to play the piccolo so well.  To show our appreciation, when Humph's piccolo services are required, we briefly allow him to practise in the house, before realising this is a terrible idea (Farm Dog wails) and banish him to the barn - all a little Thomas Hardy until you catch a riff of a sea shanty amid the carols!

Windfall Piglets

   It's time to catch up with our apple-mad pigs.

   The pigs arrived the day before Open Farm Sunday, and refusing to sign an involvement contract, spent most of OFS hiding.  Fortunately, pigs quickly learn that humans = food and if you bite that human, you get to the food faster as buckets fall and the air turns a little blue.  So here are the big, bad piglets now...

   They have (fingers crossed) literally grown out of their escape artist phase, but are still popular with walkers along the lane.  Those who cry "Here Piggy Piggy!" on Water Lane are rewarded by our piglet display team performing a screeching, ear-flapping yet balletic sprint in the wrong direction - their echolocation is about as highly tuned as Humbug's, and they tend to head to the food bowl first.  Something I can relate to.  But all the exercise and snuffling makes for a tasty free-range pig, and at this rate, we expect a full complement of bacon, sausages, joints and gammon for Christmas.

   Currently, they are guzzling their way through a vast quantity of apples.  With competition in our little orchard from the chickens, help is at hand from the people of Nayland - in particular the magic porridge pot of apple trees in Fen Street.  If anyone has any windfalls they would like cleared, we can put them to good use!

   In other great news, it is finally dry enough (with a little rain-dodging) to muck out the barn.  This window of dry weather has all the local farmers excited.  For us, it means for the first time this year we can transport the muck over grassland without damaging the fields.  We like the barn to be spankingly clean for the cows when they head inside for the winter and it's good to finally see that muck heading up the lane.

I am so thankful, I even papped a trailer load of manure.  I'm off now to start writing a talk for the East Essex Food and Farming Group next week.  I promise not to include the muck photo.

Little Pig Robinsons

So, our pair of calm, docile, lop-eared Houdini-piglets have decided they would rather be roaming the mean streets of Horkesley as opposed to a life in their lovely green meadow.  Thank you to everyone who took part in the attempts to get them back into the field.  The way to revitalise the Big Society?  Community animal herding.

   I very kindly left the escapists in the care of others to head to our twin farm in Dorset, to witness the remarkable results of Adam Henson's new agricultural show, "Pimp My Calf Hutch".Me and Calf-Tel have had our differences in the past, but if I were ever to consider camping was a good idea, I would like to take one of these with me - canvas is very overrated. [NB. Had I had to assemble this I would probably be thinking differently. The smaller version drove me to near-violence.]

But, there is no need to run away!  Better than a calf hutch or pig sty, is our pimped-out barn here in Essex.  For those who didn't make it to OFS, we are proud to introduce our new-look Mill House.

 Hats off to the incredible Richard Green for the work he put in to turn this side around in under a week.  And for patiently dealing with the site Führer, sorry, foreman.

Not to mention a bricklaying apprentice with little (to no) spatial awareness.  "Is that level?" Genuinely, no clue.  I could blame the PTSD from stacking 1600 Victorian bricks for the new plinth the day before my short-lived apprenticeship, but I would be lying.

The barn is now boarded against the weather.  Naturally, this is a temporary measure and distressingly, the boards will have to come off (joy!) to reinstate the original features we've preserved in the frame beneath.  However, our priority at the moment is making sure the barn is weatherproof and structurally sound in order to continue the work.  I did not get a chance to put these pictures up for Open Farm Sunday, but the change in a year is quite remarkable.

JULY 2011


JUNE 2012


Inside, it is looking fabulous with Roy Cafferty prepping sections for the lime plaster course next week.  Following my "success" at bricklaying, I am confident lime plastering will uncover my hidden genius.

Thank you again to everyone on the Essex CC courses, but particularly to Richard, Essex/Suffolk's premier timber frame restorer, for the incredible work.  It is lovely to have an area getting back into a usable shape and to see progress on the farm.