I remember the first time I picked a chanterelle in Canada. Taught by my farm hosts who’d been foraging for decades, I was shown how to identify a couple of different types of mushrooms found commonly around the farm where they lived. Off walking on my own one day, I spotted a golden trumpet poking through the forest floor. Feeling confident enough with my knowledge to pick it, I gathered a few dozen of the mushrooms along way and returned to the farm overjoyed at my finds and ready to cook up a storm.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
When the lovely folk at Source suggested Trethowan’s Dairy as a subject for the exhibition I was putting together there, it crossed my mind that I might be featuring too many cheese producers on the website. After a moment’s thought, I discounted that thought, because obviously there’s no such thing as too much cheese…