Branching out into Beef
Stephen Smith - 20 September 2013
In my role as Senior Certification officer at Soil Association Certification I particularly enjoy the chance to get out of the office and meet our inspiring farmers. This year’s Organic September theme is ‘Small Change, Big Difference’, which gave me the perfect excuse to visit one of our licensees who really are making changes. On a fine summer’s day back in August I visited Langford Farm, where pioneering Charlie and Teresa Allward have recently branched out by setting up a beef box scheme, which makes good use of the calves produced from their dairy herd.
Family-run Langford Farm spreads over 200 acres on the edge of Chew Valley in Somerset. The land is mainly down to permanent pasture and hay meadows, which are full of native grasses and wild flowers. The main enterprise is an organic dairy herd of 50 care-free British Friesian cows. Charlie has been farming the land here ever since he was old enough to drive a tractor, and his lovely wife Teresa started full-time on the farm two years ago after a very successful stint in retail.
The organic dairy market has suffered in the last few years; milk prices have not risen in line with the cost of production. Therefore most dairy farmers have had to either diversify, expand or stop milking. Charlie and Teresa chose the ‘diversify’ option, and Teresa’s previous career in retail has placed them in good stead to develop a meat box scheme as an additional enterprise to their milk sales.
The beef calves are produced by their dairy cows, but sired by pedigree bulls of a range of native breeds such as Aberdeen Angus, Devon and Hereford. Sometimes the offspring are sold as calves or store cattle through the organically certified Frome Market, where Teresa and Charlie are proud to say they regularly fetch top prices in their class.
However for the last year the Allwards have also been finishing a few of the beef animals themselves, and the resulting cuts, steaks, joints, sausages and burgers are available through their monthly box scheme. They are now looking into beef charcuterie (such as bresaola), a challenge they are looking forward to. They have already built up a loyal customer base who are welcome to visit the farm; their love of the land, its wildlife and their animals are really apparent and a joy to experience.
Teresa and Charlie are wholly committed to organic farming, and Langford Farm is a great example of organic principles and innovative practice. Their small change to breed more beef animas has led to a big change in them producing quality organic beef for direct sale whilst giving them the opportunity to share their lovely farm and the benefits of organic.
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