Nature is my passion – it’s been my obsession for as long as I can remember.
When I left the academic world to become a pig farmer a couple of years ago I was determined to get back to a more simplistic, natural way of life. My plan was to live and work on my own farm, raising free range animals and growing food as nature intended. I wanted to get back to basics. The idea was to put into practice some of the more traditional British farming methods. I wanted top quality, seasonal, fresh produce so I set about creating an environment and infrastructure on the farm to support this.
The type of farming that we practise here on the farm was commonplace before the Second World War; free range, low intensity – oh yes, that good old-fashioned farming. Five years on and I am proud to say that our farm produces rare-breed pork of the highest quality from slow-grown pigs that lead a completely free range life, roaming over pasture and woodland where they are able to root for wild garlic, chestnuts, acorns, tubers and grubs.
The variety and quality of food harvested from our nation’s countryside is one of our greatest assets. We have a wealth of farmers and small producers who grow or raise some of the best meats, fruit, vegetables and cheeses in Europe. The heartening thing is that there is much more interest now in where our food is coming from, how and where it is produced and who has produced it, not to mention the plethora of manuals and cookbooks out there telling you how to cook it! The growing interest in the provenance of food, environment and healthy diet means that people are more aware of what they are buying, cooking and eating.
It is cheering also to see that in many parts of Britain we have viable, lively local food economies, which bring together the farmers and consumers via small convenience shops, butchers and farmers’ markets. It is a growing trend – farmers’ markets are starting up all over the place, food festivals and shows draw larger and larger audiences and, at last, we seem to be waking up to the fact that it is not particularly difficult or expensive to eat real food. It occasionally takes a little bit of effort to seek out and maybe a little thought and time to prepare.
So, once home with a bag full of these wonderfully fresh, seasonal ingredients, what to do with them? I like to do as little as possible – one of my favourite dishes has to be slow roasted belly pork. A superb piece of free range pork, skin scored and sprinkled with sea salt to produce crunchy crackling, slow roasted for a couple of hours produces one of the richest, most comforting meals you can think of. Served with steamed vegetables, a dollop of creamy mash and the juices from the pan, this is a simple, traditional and wholesome supper. Fabulous!
Fact: Of the 5 million pigs in the UK, only 33,000 are organically reared.