Meat, milk and beer – the perfect way to spend a day

Having seen some great farms together in the United States, the UK Nuffield 2010 Crew decided to keep things a bit closer to home yesterday with a trip to Staffordshire.

While a few of us were missing (bad luck to Princess and Peckie for the annoyingly-timed dry spell), we met at fellow scholar George Finch’s place to have a look at his business – Medium Rare.

I’d visited the farm a few years ago when George was part of the Mercer Farming team who won Farmers Weekly’s diversification farmer of the year award.

Mercer Farming is run by the very lovely Roger Mercer, along with his son, Rob (who rears free-range pigs and is also George’s business partner) and his youngest son, Alec (who rears free-range chickens).

The Nuffield Crew

It’d take a while to explain everything that goes on in the business, but three years after my first visit I still think it’s one of the best-run farm enterprises I’ve ever seen.

Everything on the farm has to prove itself as a profitable business, without the Single Farm Payment even being taken into consideration.

Subsidies are put into a seperate account and used for environmental purposes (the farm’s got some cracking meadows in a Higher Level Stewardship agreement) with the understanding that the farm shouldn’t rely on them in case they are taken away by the EU one day.

Afterwards we visited Rupert Major’s farm to look at his grass-based dairy system (congrats to Rupes, Chris and Rhys for totally brainwashing me about the benefits of farming this way – I’m sold) and then headed on to Freedom Brewery, where we learnt about brewing lager. (Interesting fact – the word ‘lagering’ means ‘to store’, and to make proper lager the stuff should be allowed to brew for six weeks. Apparently Carling brews for just 3 days.)

Despite the lager-based headache I’m now suffering from, I had a brilliant time. Great farms and great company, I’m looking forward to next year’s gathering already….

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