Out­stand­ing in his field

Che­sham beef farmer nom­i­nated for top award

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by SO­PHIE DONO­VAN

CAN this Che­sham farmer bring home the ba­con?

Ba­con? No, but his beef could be on to a win­ner.

Ben Har­man has been short­listed as a fi­nal­ist for the 2018 Beef Farmer of the Year award.

A fourth-gen­er­a­tion cat­tle farmer, whose grand­fa­ther in­tro­duced the Charo­lais breed to the UK, Mr Har­man was des­tined to be in the beef in­dus­try.

Cur­rently short­listed as a fi­nal­ist for the 2018 Bri­tish Farmer of the Year award by Farm­ers Weekly, he is hop­ing to fin­ish a cut about the rest.

The Farm­ers Weekly awards cel­e­brate the agri­cul­tural suc­cess sto­ries across the UK, with beef be­ing one of the 19 cat­e­gories in to­tal. Not­ing sus­tain­abil­ity, the de­sir­abil­ity of pro­duce, and a de­vel­oped un­der­stand­ing of the mar­ket, the award recog­nises those they be­lieve will with­stand Brexit, and are as­sets to the in­dus­try.

It all be­gan with Mr Har­man’s great-grand­fa­ther, who bought the Che­sham-based Grove Farm. Passed down through the gen­er­a­tions, each Har­man made their own ad­just­ments. Once mar­ried, Ben’s fa­ther stepped down so the new­ly­weds could be­gin their reign.

Hav­ing both a pas­sion for cook­ing and for his cat­tle, Mr Har­man chose to com­bine the two.

Ex­plain­ing his de­ci­sions to be “all about his belly”, he at­tempted a cross- breed be­tween charo­laise and wagyu. A French and a Ja­panese breed of cat­tle, and a com­bi­na­tion un­com­mon to the beef in­dus­try. Chagyu, in his eyes, is a “sys­tem rather than just a breed, it’s one of those mar­ginal gain things”.

It is not just his suc­cess­ful cross-breed­ing that caught the at­ten­tion of Farm­ers Weekly.

A study tour with Meat & Live­stock Australia re­vealed to Har­man the im­por­tance of the lives an­i­mals lead to meat qual­ity. This was then made a pri­or­ity on Grove Farm. The en­tire process, from ges­ta­tion to slaugh­ter has been well con­sid­ered, to the point where the fi­nal moments of his cat­tle’s lives are on a farm, and in pairs. He strives for the “best pos­si­ble life, and the best pos­si­ble death”.

Avoid­ing men­tion­ing his own ef­forts, Har­man puts down the suc­cesses noted by Farm­ers Weekly to the others in­volved in the chain.

“I wouldn’t be any­where at all if I didn’t have the sup­port of them,” he said.

Whilst re­tired, his fa­ther con­tin­ues to con­trib­ute to the farm when the lat­est farm­ing Har­man is car­ry­ing out his du­ties as vice-chair­man of the Bri­tish Charo­lais so­ci­ety.

He puts his suc­cess down to those who take on his pro­duce; Har­man was keen to men­tion The Full Moon at Hawridge, and the chef who tack­les his cat­tle.

If he gains this ti­tle of best beef farmer, Har­man is hop­ing to spread a les­son his grand­fa­ther taught him: “you never learn any­thing off your own dung heap.”

Es­sen­tially, farm­ers need to travel and talk, both for ed­u­ca­tion within the in­dus­try, and to sup­port their men­tal health. Plus, more farm­ers talk­ing may prompt the en­thu­si­as­tic and will­ing to join the herd.

For those want­ing to try Mr Har­man’s Chagyu, be­cause “it is special, it is dif­fer­ent, it is bet­ter than peo­ple will find just about any­where else”, it is avail­able Septem­ber 9-10, at The Full Moon in Hawridge.

The win­ner will be an­nounced at an awards cer­e­mony at Grosvenor House in Lon­don on Oc­to­ber 4.

PHO­TOS: TIM SCRIVENER

Farmer Ben Har­man with his herd of cat­tle

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