l-r - Peter Gott, Izzy Griffin, Louise Griffin, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom MP, Richard Griffin, Judy Griffin
The Clarissa Dickson Wright legacy award was presented at Parliament on 22nd March 2017 by farmer, entrepreneur, founder of Borough Market and friend of Clarissa, Peter Gott. Peter, who farms at Sillfield in Cumbria, was the inaugural winner of the Award (it has subsequently also been won by Peelham Farm on the Scottish Borders and Padstow Farm Shop in Cornwall). Peter made the below speech to announce the winner of Clarissa's Award for 2016. He brought the 2016 Rural Oscars to a close with this presentation:
My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my honour to introduce the fourth annual Award given in the name of our friend, Clarissa Dickson Wright, who we lost three years ago. Throughout her career as a cook, television presenter and, latterly, Countryside Alliance Awards judge, Clarissa never stinted from championing farmers, especially those of us she felt were part of what she gleefully termed “the awkward-squad”.
She admired those who were unafraid to stand up for the industry, for high welfare, slow food and a commitment to educating the next generation about where their food comes from. This year’s winner is chosen from the outstanding pool of rural businessmen and women here today. Along with my fellow judges Sally Merison, Ann Mallalieu, Tim Bonner, Philip Johnston and Emma Penny, we think that this year’s winner will keep Clarissa’s legacy alive. Clarissa would have approved of this year’s winners, Briddlesford Lodge Farm Shop, partly because she loved the Isle of Wight and its strong farming heritage, but also because it’s a family-run dairy farm which has adapted & evolved to survive while continuing to milk the prize herd of Guernseys, create a thriving rose veal market, sell direct, educate youngsters and also tell Arla where to go! Members of the Griffin family have farmed at Briddlesford since 1923.
The main thrust of the business is to support the family dairy farm by marketing the family’s own dairy products direct through their own farm shop and café. In addition, the produce of over 50 Isle of Wight producers are sold at the shop and in the café. Farmer Paul is passionate about maintaining his dairy herd and wants to give all his animals a life, which is why he is so committed to growing the rose veal market, as he refused to have any of his bull calves shot on day one. Award winning butcher Callum reports a strong market for veal in many different guises, including burgers and sausages which are popular with holiday-makers and locals alike. Callum has a good line in “butcher banter” which he uses when taking school children through talks on butchery. He stressed to the judges that although there is no abattoir on the island all the carcasses are brought back, hung and broken down at the farm. A new purpose built processing unit will be finished this year. Not only will the new build enable the family to increase productivity (from 90,000l a year into the millions), it will also enable Izzy Griffin, the family cheese-maker, to increase her range of cheeses. Her current halloumi-style cheese is very popular and she has an eye on a Caerphilly style next, with others to come after that. The new unit has viewing windows in all rooms so visitors can see processing and cheese-making up close. In addition to the farm shop, run by Louise Griffin, there is Bluebells café, run by Paul’s wife Chrissy, which sells the farm’s produce as well as the produce from the Isle of Wight (or Hampshire).
The Hop Kilns Heritage Centre is a converted hop barn run by Judy Griffin, Paul, Izzy and Louise’s mother, who takes school children through dairy farming’s heritage with a film and a range of traditional tools and utensils. Judy also makes all the scones and jam sold in the café. The education theme is vitally important to the whole family who host weekly “Welly Wednesday” events for schools and take regular tours, talks and tastings. Farmer Richard, the father, told judges “We are all about education. Some know nothing about dairy at all and that is why we are here.” Richard and his son Paul are clear that their mission is to educate and ensure the next generation understands where their food and dairy produce comes from. Open Farm Sunday is hosted on a small and accessible scale where each family member takes 15 people on a tour and talk. The view – and Clarissa would agree - is that an intimate approach means the message is received and understood better than if the farm were packed out each year.
When you arrive at Briddlesford and head towards the farm shop and café you will walk past stalls containing new calves. They are positioned by the door not just for the “aaaah” factor for visitors, but so that the cows themselves can get used to people and become calm and biddable, which the herd certainly is. The main cow shed is known as the “cow palace” because cows are relaxed and able to roam around freely - they came to say “hello” to the judges and get a pat, like a pack of huge, friendly hounds. We feel that Briddlesford does everything the Clarissa award needs to do – namely show grit and hard work to champion education, slow food, animal welfare, farming and taste. But above and beyond that there is a huge enjoyment and humour in the process. The Griffins clearly love what they do and it’s our pleasure on Clarissa’s behalf to send this coveted claret and gold plaque back to the Isle of Wight - we hope it will be displayed with pride!
Congratulations to the whole Griffin family on this prize, please come and receive it from the Secretary of State and from Clarissa’s friends.