Producer of the Month: Rona Amiss, Duck and Goose Farmer, Dartmoor
Award-winning farmer and mother of five, Rona Amiss, vowed in December 2007 to never to keep geese again after intruders took 350 of her Wessex white geese from a barn. They then set it alight - leaving 800 ducks to burn to death. Thankfully, despite this ordeal, Rona and her husband Neville changed their minds. They currently farm award-winning free-range geese as well as other poultry and meat.
Rona and Neville have been rearing Wessex White geese ever since their bed and breakfast business in Exmoor collapsed during the foot and mouth crisis of 2001. They moved to Higher Fingle, a sixty acre farm in Dartmoor, in 2005. Higher Fingle is geographically higher and drier than their previous residence. The higher elevation has meant that the geese have seemed to grow faster and the Amiss' have found it far easier to keep the feed dry. The five Amiss children - Elsa (12), Alfred (10), Dora (7) and twins Harry and Percy (6) - are all involved in the day-to-day running of the farm. In fact Elsa is in charge of collecting and selling the duck eggs.
The geese are usually kept out in the fields from 8am to dusk, although they are only allowed outside once they are fully feathered. The goslings are fed on 'chick crumb' and then grower pellets before graduating to grass at ten weeks, finally settling on a wheat-based diet. This regime is what Rona believes is responsible for the adult birds' lovely firm yellow fat. High quality goose fat is one of the great advantages of roasting a goose - nothing makes tastier roast potatoes. Many farmers keep geese indoors for their last month but the Amiss' do not believe in confining them and as a result it is a stress-free waddle to the purpose-built abattoir when the time comes.
Higher Fingle geese are available for Christmas in four sizes - small, medium, large and extra-large - which can either be collected from the farm or delivered overnight in insulated boxes. For a fabulous alternative to turkey, serve with bacon, sausage meat and chestnuts, alongside the obligatory roast potatoes and brussel sprouts. Any leftovers will make a delicious stew.
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