Producer of the Month: Camilla and Roly Puzey, Lamb Farmers, Oxfordshire
Roly and Camilla Puzey, who both come from farming backgrounds, met when they were working for LEAF (Linking Envirnoment and Farming) setting up Open Farm Sunday. They quickly realised that they shared the dream of running their own farm and in June 2009, two weeks before they were married, they were offered a farm tenancy in South Oxfordshire on the Northmoor Trust estate.
The Puzeys took over Hill Farm in Little Wittenham, near Abingdon, and spent the next year getting to grips with caring for a flock of 300 sheep, managing the grass, the soil, the accounts, the conservation of the land and, of course, selling their meat at farmers' markets. In the last year, Roly and Camilla have turned the farm into a successful business and sell their lamb online, at local farmers' markets and to local schools, butchers, pubs and restaurants.
They are both aware that many people don't know where their food comes from, how it is produced or about the effort and care that has gone into it. That is why they not only produce delicious lamb but also offer people the opportunity to be a Shepherd for the day. Anyone is welcome to visit the farm and have a go at moving the sheep with the help of Meg, the sheepdog. The farm provides a fantastic learning resource for schools and other interest groups, not least because is also home to a magnificent Iron Age Hill Fort, known locally as the Wittenham Clumps.
- Why do you do what you do?
We love the countryside and we see it as a real privilege to work within this environment. Producing good food from our sheep, whom we take the utmost care of, is such a rewarding job. That's not to say it is all plain sailing - far from it. But the ups and downs are all part of our daily routine and we take comfort that lots of farmers all around the country are battling with frozen water pipes at the same time we are. We also both enjoy welcoming people onto the farm to share in what we do. We hold lambing weekends and open days, when people come and join us to be shepherds for the day. We aspire to give visitors a true experience of a day on the farm. The countryside has so much to offer and we are passionate about connecting with every element and sharing all that we can with visitors to the farm.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
Although we are both from farming backgrounds, we were not in a position to take on a family business. We had to wait for another opportunity to come up for us...and we are now tenants of the Northmoor Trust's estate in Oxfordshire and we are proud of our new farming business. We still have lots to do but the best feedback we get is from our customers at Farmers' Markets telling us how delicious our lamb is.
- What is your most memorable moment?
Our most memorable moment is lambing. There is nothing more amazing (and memorable) than witnessing new life coming into the world. The crowds we attract at our lambing open weekends are truly memorable too, as is seeing the pleasure on people's faces as they stand and wait for a ewe to lamb.
- If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food?
Encourage people to visit the amazing variety of farms across the country - this should be a priority for every child and parent. Once people realise the care and pride British farmers take in producing food, they would be more inclined to support and promote British food. Supporting initiatives such as British Food Fortnight and Open Farm Sunday are key to raising awareness. - What is your favourite food and why? Seasonal produce always remains a favourite. The first taste of asparagus is always a treat.
- What are your predictions for the future of British food?
More people buying British and appreciating local provenance through knowing the story behind their food. This will be achieved through greater industry and government promotion, as well as farmers being better informed and trained in understanding their customers.
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
British food . . . it's more than just food
- Beat the Recession tip?
Invest in a chest freezer and buy meat in larger quantities direct from your local farmer, this works out as being far more cost effective. Also learn and understand the different cuts of the carcass so that you can confidently select the cheaper cuts to make delicious recipes , such as with lamb the 'scrag end' which makes delicious stews.
- What's on the menu this evening?
- How can people get hold of your produce?
Please visit camillaandroly.co.uk or call us 07776 393072