The 2013 Countryside Alliance Awards (aka the Rural Oscars) were presented to top rural businesses by the Secretary of State for Defra, Owen Paterson MP, at a ceremony at the Houses of Parliament on 30 April. The Parliamentary reception was attended by Regional Champions who had travelled from as far afield as the Orkney Islands, the Isle of Anglesey, County Antrim and many points in between. The UK Champions were announced by Countryside Alliance Chairman Kate Hoey MP on what has been an exceptional day for Yorkshire. Alliance President Baroness Mallalieu was on hand to present the inaugural Clarissa Dickson Wright Award to Cumbria's Sillfield Farm on behalf of her late friend and Awards judge Clarissa, who passed away in March.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “These awards celebrate rural businesses across the UK from post offices to butchers, they are the backbone of rural life and it is vital that we do all we can help create the right conditions to allow these businesses to compete and thrive.”
The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of the rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage of our small hard-working businesses. They are now in their ninth year and have become the definitive rural business award to win.
A special Clarissa Dickson Wright Award was also presented in memory of the TV cook and champion of the countryside. The recipient of the award, created to recognise strong animal husbandry, support slow and artisan food and protect farming heritage, was chosen by Clarissa before her death. It was won by Peter and Christine Gott, who run Sillfield Farm in Gatebeck in the Lake District, and sell meat from wild boar, rare breed pigs, Herdwick sheep and rare breed poultry.
Countryside Alliance Chairman Kate Hoey MP announced the 013 Countryside Alliance Awards Champions for the UK, across our four categories, as follows:
Our Champion Butcher for the UK is a fifth generation success story. The family has a farm and busy High Street shop and the current owner’s father still keeps his hand in by serving in the shop as well as judging at fatstock shows and training young farmers in what to look for while judging. The national judging panel was very keen to honour the continuity of service that this family has provided. Now with Q Guild status the Weatherheads have been Pateley Bridge butchers since 1876 and have adapted and survived while remaining relevant and busy on the modern high street. A visit to their farm shows the priorities of the family: animal welfare, traceability and taste – all things consumers should insist upon. The personal charisma of Andrew Weatherhead and his young daughter’s enthusiasm for farming mean the Weatherheads of Pateley Bridge in North Yorkshire will continue to be a brand to be reckoned with. Congratulations to Andrew Weatherhead from Pateley Bridge in North Yorkshire, please come up with the 6th generation, your daughter Molly, and collect your Award from the Secretary of State and Master Butcher David Lidgate.
Moving on now to the Butcher Award, one of the most popular categories. This year we have two commendations to make before announcing the Champion. The first commendation goes to a business set up out of a need to protect a unique product. Not only do they have produce sourced from the local farming and crofting community, and make all manner of pies and puddings, the family took steps to protect the providence of their local herd status and, aided by supporting business, took over the operation of the local abattoir ensuring that stock didn’t have to travel to the mainland to be slaughtered. The Aberdeen Angus beef sold at the Dounby Butchers is derived from cattle born and reared in the Orkney Isles which were slaughtered and dressed in Orkney. For your foresight and determination to protect Scotland’s food heritage, Barbara and Elaine Sinclair from Dounby Butchers on Orkney it is a pleasure to ask you to come and collect your commendation from the Secretary of State and Master Butcher David Lidgate.
Our second commendation in the Butcher category goes to an energetic, young and passionate outfit which is dedicated to delivering quality to customers while at the same time supporting local farmers and helping youngsters into the craft of butchery. This team works hard with farmers to ensure the meat is up to the highest standards and the “golden seal” sticker found on the produce represents a real mark of local quality and taste. Butcher Simon has his eye on the future of the trade and is training up new apprentices who, like him, strive for excellence. The butchery’s Q Guild status reinforces this commitment. In fact young apprentice Daniel was recently honoured at Butcher’s Hall in London. I hope this commendation brings just as much pride to Simon and the team from Blagdon Farm Shop in Northumbria. Please come and collect your commendation from the Secretary of State and Master Butcher David Lidgate.
Winner: Our Cow Molly, Dungworth, South Yorkshire - www.ourcowmolly.co.uk
And now onto the UK Champion in the Local Food Category. This also goes to a family run business. With the dairy industry in freefall this farming family redoubled its efforts to go the distance for the next generation, diversifying into ice-cream production – a gutsy move that has paid off. Award winning ice-cream is just the tip of the iceberg here, and a commitment to other local producers through a farm shop, as well as the education of youngsters, is also strong. A new dairy building is currently in production on the farm and it will include a huge classroom which will overlook the dairy herd, enabling our Champion to enthuse the next generation about the industry and milk as a superfood. The expansion plans also mean increasing the range to include butter and yoghurt. No one else in the area delivers milk fresh from the herd each morning to thousands of local homes and businesses, and the difference in freshness is there in the tasting, as local businesses will confirm. When trying to set up a Sheffield producers’ market our Champion was told that it wasn’t possible to specify “Sheffield only,” so his requests were turned down. He proved that decision wrong by setting the market up himself, saying that the “local” term is often misused and in this case should mean “from Sheffield” only. It’s now thriving. The business, which is called “Our Cow Molly” and features a distinctive Friesian and pink livery, also sponsors the local football team and hosts an educational trip from a local school every fortnight. The annual bonfire night and fireworks party is now famous locally, and the business sponsored the Sheffield panto last Christmas. 18,000 tubs of Our Cow Molly ice-cream were consumed over panto season, with “Molly” the panto cow taking a starring role on stage, bringing further recognition to the brand. Congratulations to Eddie Andrew, who is a farmer as well as a campaigner. He is passionate about Sheffield and supporting all the local businesses he can. We only wish there were more like him, Sheffield is very lucky! Please come and receive your Champions plaque from the Secretary of State and Farmers Guardian Editor Emma Penny.
Highly Commended: Broughgammon Farm, Co Antrim - www.broughgammon.com
Moving on now to the Local Food category, which applauds those making efforts to produce and promote the best our islands can offer. The commendation in this category goes to a rapidly expanding and extremely exciting family-run business that is a tribute to young rural entrepreneurial flair. Having identified unwanted newborn billy goats as a niche market to explore, two brothers started selling Cabrito, or goat meat. The herd has grown rapidly from 30 goats to 300 and the Billy Burger is a firm favourite at farmers markets and food festivals across Northern Ireland! The Cole brothers of Broughgammon Farm have demonstrated foresight while at the same time delivering a valuable asset to the local community. Not only this, but deer management work and the harvesting of seaweed from the Antrim coast are also now part of the Broughgammon’s repertoire. At Broughgammon Farm open days and school trips enable young visitors to learn about the importance of provenance and traceability of all products from “farm to fork”. The Cole brothers are a credit to the province and an example of what can be achieved with dedication and hard work. Congratulations to Charlie and Sandy from Broughgammon Farm at Ballycastle in Co Antrim. Please come and receive your commendation from the Secretary of State and Farmers Guardian Editor Emma Penny.
Village Shop / Post Office category
The UK Champion is a shining example of people power in action and the Shop’s manager says she gets goosebumps thinking of the community spirit that is in the village now. A crumbling Church has been turned into a community space which houses a shop that sources 90% of its products locally. There is also a café that is used by various local groups, including Mothers’ Storytelling and Knit and Natter for the older residents as well as by the local Police Constable, who has no local station. The shop is far exceeding expectations and is making £1000 a day, with profit is going back into the community with the exception of cigarette sales where profit goes to Cancer Research. A team of 60 volunteers runs the shop, and the council is so impressed it is investing £30,000 in a new bus stop and car parking. The Church also benefits as Sunday service still takes place and since the shop opened more people are attending. A local apprentice scheme is in the pipeline with the professionals who helped set up the shop offering work experience to local youngsters to encourage them to stay in the area rather than having to move away. This is a great example of the whole community working together. Ellen, Ashley and the team from the Chalke Valley Stores in Broad Chalke near Salisbury, may I ask you to come and collect your Champion’s plaque from the Secretary of State.
Highly Commended: Ye Olde Steppes, Herefordshire - www.yeoldesteppes.co.uk
Highly Commended in this category is a village shop that had closed, but through hard work and determination is now back and stronger than ever, even boasting a tearoom that has proved popular with locals and tourists alike. This is a happy example of in-comers injecting some new ideas, energy, vigour and support for other local businesses to a village shop that had been lost. The village shop in Pembridge first opened in 1777 and we hope this incarnation enjoys the same longevity. We are proud to honour the Olde Steppes Tea Room, a real Herefordshire treasure. I would ask Mark Ratcliffe and Gary Seaton from the Olde Steppes Village Shop at Pembridge in Herefordshire to come and receive your commendation from the Secretary of State.
The UK Champion in the Start Up category is also an impressive young business person. She has developed her business swiftly: a Pick Your Own fruit farm was the beginning, followed by a new farm shop with butchery counter. Now, in under two years, a purpose built restaurant has opened to local acclaim. Still in her early twenties, Laura is a no-nonsense businesswoman with a solid farming background and strong family support. She acknowledges that being young and female in the farming industry can often bring its own problems, but she has stayed focused on her mission of providing great produce and a meeting place for local people. The restaurant has only been open since November and already has wedding bookings for the year, which is a tribute to Laura’s marketing and business skills, as well as the quality of the Yorkshire produce on offer. With plans to extend and put in an orchard to enhance the Pick Your Own side of the business, Spuds & Berries Farm Shop has a huge amount to offer the local area. Congratulations to Laura and your parents who support you at Spuds & Berries Farm Shop near Selby in North Yorkshire, please come and collect your plaque from the Secretary of State and Hunter Boot's Chris Dewbury.
Now for the Start-up Award, which encourages rural businesses starting out in this tough economic climate. The commendation in this category goes to a unique business with exceptional prospects. Here we have a business that seems to have chosen its creator – growing up near Bournville and the Pembertons Chocolate Farm in Carmarthenshire may be a clue as to which way this young man leapt. This budding and very young entrepreneur was expelled from school with no qualifications but has turned his fortunes around with the help of a Prince’s Trust grant and an extremely positive attitude. His trailblazing chocolate company began modestly in an old caravan at the bottom of his mum’s garden in Carmarthenshire, but thankfully quickly progressed to a purpose built kitchen. Now, as the finishing touches are made to a new development, the business is really taking off, supplies over 75 outlets and provides several jobs locally. We have high hopes for this young businessman, who advises us never to make chocolate to bad music. The Countryside Alliance team tells me the product is exceptional! I am delighted to announce that the commendation in the start-up category is Liam Burgess of NOMNOM chocolate, based at Llansteffan in Carmarthenshire. Please come and collect your commendation from the Secretary of State and Hunter Boot's Chris Dewbury.
Rural Hero of 2013 - May Stocks
I would now like to present a very special Rural Hero Award. You all know the demands of running a business in a rural area, but May Stocks really does go above and beyond. Her shop high up on the Pennine Way above Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire is open 364 days a year until 9pm. She delivers the papers each day and will take home deliveries to those who cannot get out to her shop. While on her rounds she regularly helps the elderly to get out of bed and dressed, helps with their medication, cleaning, cooking and really anything that she can do to help. One of her neighbours has said that May “singlehandedly keeps the community going” and she also provides for walkers and cyclists on the Pennine Way with an astonishing range of stock. To prove the point about the Aladdin’s cave nature of Highgate Farm Shop, a cartoon presented to May hangs on the wall and shows a customer saying “I’ll have two pounds of sausage, a pork pie, some bacon, 2 Mars bars, crisps and a packet of fags – and have you got a cylinder head gasket for a 1250 Triumph herald?” To which May responds, smiling, “What year?” It is our absolute pleasure to declare the charming May Stocks our Rural Hero – thank you May for all that you do. May, please come and collect a certificate and a special bottle, signed personally by the Prime Minister.
The inaugural Clarissa Dickson Wright Award
Baroness Mallalieu then paid tribute to her great friend and longstanding Awards judge Clarissa Dickson Wright, who died only a few weeks ago. Baroness Mallalieu's tribute ended with the presentation of a special award in Clarissa's name. She told the reception:
In conversation with Clarissa last year Jill and Sarah, who run the Countryside Alliance Awards, proposed starting up a dedicated Clarissa Dickson Wright Award, the criteria for which she herself would set.
Clarissa was touched and delighted with this idea. The Award would, she said, focus on strong animal husbandry, support for slow and artisan food and a platform for the efforts being made to foster our farming heritage through measures such as protecting rare breeds. She was also firm in saying that, because farmers and producers need to help the public connect with their food, we should also honour them when they get it right. That campaigning side of her, keen to educate, inform and ignite a passion for food, was powerful and forms the heart of her legacy.
We had hoped that she would be here to present the inaugural award. Tragically that was not to be, but she did select the winner, most vehemently, and I am honoured and humbled to present the Clarissa Dickson Wright Award in her stead today.
Peter Gott of Sillfield Farm describes himself as a “Man on a Mission”, so it is easy to see why he and Clarissa saw eye to eye.
Sillfield in the village of Gatebeck in the Lake District is home to Wild Boar, Rare Breed Pigs, Herdwick sheep and rare breed types of poultry, all of which are Free Range. The owners, Peter and Christine Gott, have been running the farm for twenty years and now their daughter and son in law are also involved in the business and are just as passionate.
Some of the finest products in the country are reared at Sillfield. Wild Boar production started in 1993, when Peter’s brother gave him four wild boar gilts as a joke. And it's just gone from there. The farm has about eighteen acres of coniferous woodland, which is ideal habitat for the 150 wild boar at the farm.
Jamie Oliver sends his students from his restaurant Fifteen to Sillfield Farm every year, where they are shown how the animals are reared and taught the importance of using quality ingredients in their cooking. Sillfield also supplies some of the best restaurants in London, including Fifteen Restaurant which receives 2 Sillfield pigs every week.
Peter Gott is a very well respected leader in Artisan Food Production and has spread the word on numerous television programmes, acting as a true ambassador for slow food but never forgetting that he is at heart a farmer with a family business.
Peter also has a weekly stall at Borough Market at London Bridge, a place close to the hearts of both Clarissa and her Two Fat Ladies partner, Jennifer Paterson. The pair of them
used to do cooking demonstrations at the market on the back of a flatbed truck, aware, as Peter is, how food tourism can give farming a real boost and help connect consumers and farmers.
Peter works hard to inspire and enthuse everyone he meets about the farm to fork tradition. His mantra is “Good food is one of the greatest pleasures in life.”
Peter is a richly deserving recipient of the inaugural Clarissa Dickson Wright Award. Clarissa was most particular that the colour of her Award plaque should be claret and gold. The idea of a Fortnum & Mason duck egg colour was rejected with a snort, Clarissa saying “they wouldn’t have me!”
I therefore have great pleasure in asking Peter, along with his wife Christine, to come and collect this special claret and gold plaque, given in tribute to an outstanding contribution from someone who truly knew the scale of your hard work and passion.
Peter and Christine's website is www.sillfield.co.uk