Adam Henson: Location, location!
- Credit: BBC/Joel Anderson
The setting for our new TV series puts the spotlight on Sarah and Simon Righton, farmers who are proud to be putting food on our tables
Just north of Moreton in Marsh, where the ancient Fosse Way nears the Warwickshire border, sits the tiny hamlet of Dorn. It’s made up of two farms, an old priory and half a dozen other buildings.
This is classic Cotswold countryside and nearby archaeologists have unearthed coins dating from the Roman era. But apart from the motorists passing by on the A429 heading for the annual Moreton Show, most people will be blissfully unaware of Dorn’s existence. Until now that is.
Old Farm is at the heart of this community and it’s becoming a familiar sight to millions of TV viewers as the setting for our TV series Nigel and Adam’s Farm Kitchen. I teamed up with the cook and author Nigel Slater to make four programmes for primetime BBC One. The aim was to explore how food gets from farm to fork and to look at ways of making the most of seasonal produce. With its 15th century Cotswold stone farmhouse and 300 acres of land, Old Farm proved to be the perfect location, while our hosts, the Righton family, were generous, welcoming and very patient.
Making TV programmes is a time-consuming business and requires an unbelievable amount of kit and equipment. But Simon and Sarah, along with their children Meg and Sam, didn’t seem to bat an eyelid at all the chaos and inconvenience. We didn’t just take over their kitchen, we took over their lives!
Modern farming is about inventiveness, determination and enterprise. The Rightons have all that in spades. The family has been farming at Dorn for three generations. In the 1930s Simon’s grandfather grew wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, strawberries and Brussels sprouts as well as keeping livestock. Eighty years later they still grow cereals, rear cattle, sheep and pigs and keep a flock of free range hens. They’ve also diversified successfully with a busy Farm Shop and a well-established year-round farmhouse Bed & Breakfast business.
We talk a lot about traceability and food miles these days and I love to see people who really take the idea of promoting local produce to heart. So alongside their own meat products, the Old Farm shop also stocks milk from Donnington, honey from Blockley, apple juice from Winchcombe and rape seed oil from Lower Swell. Working together with other producers packs a bigger punch and when I travel around our local farms shops and farmers’ markets it’s great to see co-operation like this.
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The TV series with Nigel wasn’t the first time I’d taken cameras to Old Farm. Back in 2011 I filmed Sarah and some of her piglets for Countryfile. Pork farmers have had a tough time for the last few years and Sarah explained how she was bucking the national trend by making her pigs pay. She introduced me to her herd of Glamrocks; a really catchy name for Gloucestershire Old Spots crossed with a Hamroc boar. The result was an animal with plenty of lean meat but still enough fat for good crackling.
Running small herds in non-intensive conditions is a particularly hard way to make a living from pigs and Sarah admitted that it was only by creating a market for her sausages, bacon and pork joints that made the venture worthwhile. Like producers all over the Cotswolds, the Rightons are proof that there’s no substitute for hard graft and good ideas. We all know that working the land can often be a back-breaking and, at times, heart-breaking way of making a living. But Sarah, Simon and dozens of other farmers throughout the region do it with imagination and gusto; they’re proud to provide food for our tables. It was a real privilege to put the TV spotlight on them and the corner of the Cotswolds they call home.
This article by Adam Henson is from the December 2013 issue of Cotswold Life magazine.
For more from Adam Henson, follow him on Twitter: @AdamHenson
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