Farm­ing fore­fa­thers

Feed­ing the peo­ple of Es­sex for gen­er­a­tions

Essex Life - - INSIDE -

CAMMAS HALL FARM, HAT­FIELD BROAD OAK

The farm­land at Cammas Hall has been farmed by the Lukies fam­ily since the 1800s. Di­rec­tor Jonathan Lukies ex­plains how it was his grand­fa­ther and fa­ther who first con­sid­ered the idea of Pick Your Own on their farm.

‘The idea was launched by grand­fa­ther and fa­ther in 1966 af­ter we’d grown 12 acres of black­cur­rants for Robin­sons but the con­tract wasn’t com­pleted. We’d heard of an­other farm in Clac­ton do­ing the same, so we took out an ad­vert in the lo­cal me­dia and found it worked. Peo­ple came and we got rid of the fruit.’

Like many farms across the UK, the PYO busi­ness peaked in the late 1970s with house­wives pur­chas­ing chest freez­ers and pick­ing and freez­ing fruits in bulk. Then the growth of the su­per­mar­kets in our towns meant the farm went back to sup­ply­ing the whole­saler. How­ever, now more and more of us want to see where our food comes from and buy from the farm gate.

Jonathan ex­plains: ‘It’s be­come fash­ion­able again for fam­i­lies to come and pick their own fruit and veg­eta­bles. Peo­ple care far more these days about where their food comes from. Peo­ple are al­ways say­ing to me how do you get your fruit and veg­eta­bles to taste so good? It’s noth­ing we are do­ing, it’s purely the fact that shop­pers are used to buy­ing from a su­per­mar­ket where the fruit on sale is on av­er­age seven to 10 days old. You can’t com­pare the two tastes.’

At this time of year Cammas Hall has a wide se­lec­tion of fruit and veg­eta­bles to pick from their farm shop. They sell straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries and all are grown without the need for any her­bi­cides.

‘We also grow pump­kins, onions, sweet­corn and sun­flow­ers too. Cus­tomers are also able to pick black­cur­rants, black­ber­ries and goose­ber­ries. The farm has its own Tea Barn and a cou­ple of years ago we added a chil­dren’s play area. We find now that in­stead of just com­ing for half an hour to pick up some fresh pro­duce, vis­i­tors spend half a day with the kids hav­ing a nice safe play and then they all have their lunch with us too.’

DEERSBROOK FARM, BRAINTREE

Deersbrook Farm (HS Hawes & Son) of­fers home-pro­duced, 100% cer­ti­fied, grass-fed beef pre­dom­i­nately from Na­tive Sus­sex cat­tle. They were the first 100% grass-fed herd in East Anglia and so far they are the only ones in Es­sex. They are reared on ma­ture grass­land to pro­vide truly great tast­ing, nu­tri­tious beef.

Anna Blum­field ex­plains: ‘You'll find our beef to be a deep plumy red with creamy coloured fat, show­ing that our cat­tle have lived in nat­u­ral, pre­mium con­di­tions. We al­low the beef to dry age, maturing nat­u­rally on the bone for 28 days, to de­velop the flavour and tex­ture of the meat. Then our lo­cal tra­di­tional butcher pre­pares the vast range of cuts that we pro­vide.’

This month they hope to open their own on-site, pur­pose-built butch­ery ready for the half-term week. This fam­ily run farm is now run by Anna’s hus­band Phil, but mum Mary and dad Peter, al­though re­tired from farm­ing, still live in their own house on the farm­land.

‘Farm­ing is a tough way to earn a liv­ing, but one which we love and are ded­i­cated to. Mum and dad have been amaz­ing and they’re al­ways on hand to give us ad­vice, help­ing us pro­duce the best nat­u­rally de­li­cious meat with the high­est wel­fare stan­dards that ben­e­fits the live­stock, en­vi­ron­ment and the con­sumer. We use tra­di­tional farm­ing meth­ods, with our cat­tle graz­ing out on the mead­ows all year round.’

‘Farm­ing is a tough way to earn a liv­ing, but one which we love and are ded­i­cated to. Mum and dad have been amaz­ing and they’re al­ways on hand to give us ad­vice’

They even grow their own hay, straw and silage for the cat­tle to pro­vide them with win­ter feed and bed­ding. All of this great care and at­ten­tion has earned them the Farm As­sured Red Trac­tor award. The cat­tle are al­lowed to grow up nat­u­rally, graz­ing for 29 months and its paid off for them as in 2015 they were highly com­mended in the Field to Fork cat­e­gory of Es­sex Life’s Food & Drink Awards.

‘We also be­came Es­sex’s first 100% grass-fed cat­tle, cer­ti­fied by Pas­ture for Life As­so­ci­a­tion,’ adds Anna. The farm was first farmed by Anna’s grand­fa­ther Ho­race Sydney, hence the HS Hawes.

‘They rented for three years and then pur­chased the farm. Six years ago dad was all ready to re­tire to a home by the sea, but we rather scup­pered their plans when we got talk­ing about tak­ing it over.’

Now Anna and Phil run the farm and Gran and Papa Hawes are on hand not only for farm­ing ad­vice, but also for babysit­ting du­ties for the cou­ple’s three young chil­dren.

‘We met on the farm as teenagers but Phil went off to be­come a builder and I had a ca­reer in sports ther­apy. Since tak­ing over we’ve made changes to the herd. We’ve built up the Na­tives and dad has let us run with what we want.’

Be­cause of the unique way the cat­tle are raised, ear­lier this year Anna and Phil sent off their meat for nu­tri­tional anal­y­sis.

‘We thought it must be good be­cause of their life­style, but it’s nice to have it con­firmed just how good the meat is. It’s the es­sen­tial fatty acids which our meat con­tains which makes the dif­fer­ence to the taste and tex­ture, our meat is ex­tremely rich in Omega 3s and 6s.’

As well as sell­ing from the farm gate they also sup­ply restau­rants in Es­sex and Hert­ford­shire. ‘We open ev­ery year for Open Farm Sun­day in June. We also do a pop-up restau­rant in April for Great Bri­tish Beef Week where a chef comes and cooks at the farm. We’ve just done the same for the Great Bri­tish Food Fort­night last month.’

SPENCER’S FARM SHOP, WICK­HAM ST PAUL

An­other lo­cal farm which is also en­joy­ing the lat­est re­nais­sance in PYO is Spencer’s Farm Shop. As slaves to the el­e­ments I asked Paul Spencer how the long hot sum­mer we en­joyed had af­fected his crop.

‘Thank­fully not too badly as most of our fruit is grown un­der­cover, which pro­tects the del­i­cate fruit from the el­e­ments. How­ever, our sec­ond batch of straw­ber­ries did ripen and fin­ish rather faster than nor­mal. The good news is the hot sum­mer brought even more peo­ple to visit the farm.’

Paul works on the farm with his wife Liz and to­gether they sup­ply the farm shop, which is leased and run by Jo O’Boyle. ‘We ran it for 20 years and it needed a new lease of life. We also have a cof­fee shop here and with the new set up I’m now able to con­cen­trate on the grow­ing side.’

While the real peak in the pop­u­lar­ity of PYO was in the 1970s, Paul agrees peo­ple now re­ally do care where their food comes from and so more and more are vis­it­ing the farm shop to buy di­rect from their lo­cal farmer.

‘It cer­tainly has picked up again,’ says Paul. ‘We find our cus­tomers don’t pick in the quan­ti­ties that they used to in the 1970s, but in­stead they come to us more of­ten.’

There is also a cof­fee shop on site and a pet­ting farm area for the chil­dren to en­joy get­ting up close to the an­i­mals. And you can take your pick from a choice of straw­ber­ries, cher­ries, as­para­gus, pump­kins and 18 va­ri­eties of ap­ples this au­tumn.

‘We grow the old fash­ioned va­ri­eties so we have a wide range of ap­ples to choose from,’ adds Paul, while the straw­ber­ries also have a much longer grow­ing sea­son these days. ‘With the va­ri­eties and grow­ing tech­niques we use, we are able to start pick­ing from late April right through to mid to late Oc­to­ber. It’s also due to hav­ing them un­der cover.’

Cus­tomers also tell Paul their straw­ber­ries taste no­tice­ably bet­ter. ‘The funny thing is, one of the va­ri­eties we grow are the very ones stocked by the su­per­mar­kets,’ Paul ex­plains. ‘The dif­fer­ence is ours are left on the plant to ripen and ma­ture. If you pick too soon you lose the flavour.’

So take your­selves out this au­tumn with the fam­ily and en­joy the wealth of fresh pro­duce cre­ated just for you by our county’s hard­work­ing farm­ers and their fam­i­lies who live and farm here in Es­sex.

‘You can take your pick from a choice of straw­ber­ries, cher­ries, as­para­gus, pump­kins and 18 va­ri­eties of ap­ples this au­tumn’

ABOVE:Anna Blum­field with her fam­ily at Deersbrook Farm

LEFT:Jonathan Lukies of Cammas Hall Farm

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