An old housemate introduced me to the concept of gin o'clock, and it's stayed on the regular schedule ever since. The rise of the micro distillery has been a wonderful thing to watch, and Bristol a pretty splendid place to watch it from.
A fairly regular visit to the Feed Bristol site, I heard rumours that someone was starting to grow mushrooms there. I soon met Patrick and eventually, months later, got round to arranging a visit up to find out more about how and why he grows his mushrooms.
‘What on earth is a supper club?’ I hear you cry! Think of it as a cross between a restaurant and a dinner party. The venue is usually someone’s home, or a pop-up location, and you’re often seated at big tables with the other diners. The feel and set up varies, but expect multiple courses of delicious food and a BYO booze policy.
I’ve been to a lot of vegetable farms over the past five years, most of them ranging from 0.5 - 5 acres in size. But when I heard about Plowright Organic and that they were growing on 30 acres of land, my ears pricked up and I figured it was time for a visit.
Working in local food for the past year, I’ve learnt a lot about the wider challenges in the agricultural sector. One of the most pressing is the subject of land access, especially for new entrants to farming. With agricultural land prices trebling in the last decade, it makes starting a new enterprise out of reach for many people. Over the months I’ve found out about a number of different ideas and models, but one of the most interesting is the Share Farming approach taken by a farm down in the Quantocks, and so when other adventures took me almost to their doorstep, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to find out a bit more about Stream Farm.
I often get asked about the best ways for people to eat more locally grown vegetables. After a year of working alongside and visiting a lot of producers, I’ve come up with a list of four farms who I feel offer a good answer to this question.
Growing up, my sister loved milk. She’d drink glass upon glass of the stuff, but I was always pretty indifferent. That was, until I lived on a farm with a Jersey cow in Canada. The taste of fresh milk, rich and creamy, sweet from the summer grass changed everything. Milk stopped being this tasteless white substance that came in a carton, and became something delicious and nutritious, produced by the lovely but rather temperamental Ellie-Mae.
I fell in love with fermenting in Northern BC as the weather cooled and the leaves began to fall. In the chilly climate of Canada, a majority of your garden has to be pulled before the first frosts hit and the snow begins to fall, and so the question of what to do with the bounty is a very real one.
Every week, I walk down the end of my road, unlock a padlock and open the doors to a small shed. I weigh out each vegetable on a set of scales according to instructions written on a sheet stuck to the shed door, and walk home, armed with a weeks worth of fresh, seasonal, locally grown produce.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time on farms; I’ve got used to the way things work, the way they operate. But occasionally, I stumble across somewhere different, somewhere a bit special. Model Farm falls firmly into that category. I’ve been sourcing a majority of my meat from them for the past couple of months through a local food coop that I work with. They tick a lot of the boxes with their organic and pasture reared certifications, but I was itching to visit and see the farm for myself. So when life took me across the other side of the Severn, I made a little diversion to visit the farm just outside Ross on Wye.
If I told you that people were farming and growing fresh produce in a shipping container behind Temple Meads, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But that’s exactly what Pete and Dermot from Grow Bristol are doing with their aquaponics set up, and soon I find myself sat in their office, cradling a cup of coffee and talking about how they ended up here…
Through the Bristol foodie network, I heard about a vineyard south of Bristol, where award winning rose was being made. My ears pricked up at the prospect of delicious local wine made mere miles from my doorstep, and soon I found myself in the beautiful Wrington Vale on the hunt for Ingrid and Dunleavy Vineyard.