GWAUN VALLEY beef and sheep farmer, Robert Vaughan, has put mutton on top of famous TV chef Jamie Oliver’s menu, which features in the current Channel 4 TV series ‘Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast’.
Pembrokeshire hill farmer Robert, who is a member of the Farmers’ Union of Wales, was keen to highlight how versatile and delicious mutton can be and was delighted to show Jamie and Jimmy round the farm.
“Out of the blue one evening I had a phone call from the Jamie Oliver production team to have a chat about my farm and mutton for the new series, with the outlook of possibly coming to see the farm for themselves. I didn’t want to get my hopes up of course. We have done a few TV shows before but it’s a bit like a job interview, you never know 100% if you’re going to be successful. They kept bouncing questions across for few weeks and then all of a sudden we had a confirmed date.
“It was all getting rather exciting but nerve racking also at that point. But I just gave them my story, not pretending to be something I’m not, and showed them round, explained how we farm and for how long we’ve been here. And they decided to run with it.”
Carn Edward meats is part of the north Pembrokeshire family hill farm and comprises of 3 livestock farms working as one under the gaze of Carn Edward mountain, which unites the holdings of Llannerch, Penrhiw and the renowned Penlan Uchaf gardens & tea rooms.
It is managed and farmed by brothers Robert and Richard under the careful eye and guidance of their parents Dilwyn and Suzanne Vaughan.
Llannerch farm is situated on the floor of the Gwaun Valley at its highest point on what was once one of the busiest drovers’ routes and pilgrims way out of north Pembrokeshire. Once home to and farmed by Robert’s and Richard’s grandparents this is where their father Dilwyn was born. Over the years he helped run the milking cows and sheep alongside purchasing the neighbouring un-farmed and neglected Penlan Uchaf.
Many years were spent clearing pasture land of gorse, blackthorns and weeds with the unreserved help of his parents at Llannerch, revealing what is now a vibrant livestock hill farm – built on blood, sweat and tears.
“Before the filming actually started I sent them a few products up to taste in London. I sent them my mutton, and they got back to me and said that Jamie Oliver was impressed by it and came back with all these wonderful ideas of what to do with it. And by the start of May we were filming. Originally the plan was for them to come out and do a taste test of flash frying a loin of lamb and a loin of mutton, and giving it to a couple of people to see what they think. Job done and off they went, but because they were so impressed with the mutton story they came for the full day cooking different things.
“I’m used to mutton but of course if you have never tried it before it is something quite special. It’s really good mood food and Jamie and Jimmy were busy cooking fried loins, pasta dishes with minced mutton, kofta balls and mutton lollipops. It really is worth trying and I can only describe it as quick young people food – and these are really the people we want to target. What is so lovely with Jamie and Jimmy is that they champion the people who produce the food and also the people who consume the food. They’re very down to earth and it was an absolute pleasure and heartwarming experience having them here,” said Robert Vaughan.
Back in the early 1980s, when Robert and Richard were children, farming hit a low point; returns were poor and interest rates high. To help survive and pay the bills farmers were encouraged to diversify. This led Dilwyn to be inspired by his love of gardening, learnt from his mother, to begin to create what is today Penlan Uchaf gardens.
The third farm Penrhiw, which adjoins Llannerch and encompasses the other half of Carn Edward mountain, came up for sale in Robert and Richards’ final year of college and was purchased that year.
So the boys, both equipped with over a 500 year Vaughan family history in the Gwaun Valley, the educational knowledge and inspiration and drive gained from their parents and grandparents and a love for their ‘Cenefyn’ (homeland where born) the story of Carn Edward farms was born.
Today the farm runs as a typical livestock hill farm, with a closed flock comprising of 750 pedigree Lleyn breeding ewes and a native herd of 200 pedigree Longhorn cattle, with all calving and lambing taking place in the spring and all animals pasture grazed. In the harsh depths of winter they are housed and fed on grass silage round bales made in early summer.
In 2001 the farm established their Longhorn cattle herd, a low input pasture based native breed, ideally suited to the extreme weather conditions facing a north Pembrokeshire farm.
Farmers markets and food festivals, along with the gardens and tea rooms offered the opportunity to capitalise on the Carn Edward meat sales growth we all know of today.
“I’ve had to learn how to get the best of the mutton carcasses – you don’t want a big layer of fat on it today because people won’t buy them. Traditionally they were processed fat, making them suitable for lengthy hanging bearing in mind we didn’t have the fridges we have today. So we process our mutton with their working coat on, which means they are leaner and higher in protein and we add value, producing what our customers want,” said Robert Vaughan.
Describing how mutton differs from lamb and why it is worth a try, Robert added: “The texture is different and there so much flavour- it’s almost like the dark meat on a chicken but there is more of it. The sheep had more time to graze and the meat becomes firmer, leaner. You can almost describe it like a good Christmas cake – it needs time and you can’t rush it.
“As an industry we’ve got so obsessed with the spring lamb story we have taken our eye off the ball. We need to keep the bigger picture in mind, as lamb consumption is falling and that’s a concern for us all. So the mutton story is a way of generating a new interest and it is a great way of championing our sheep farming industry.
“The opportunity to share my farming life with ‘Friday Night Feast’ and such great well known characters, was both humbling and a heart-warming experience. As farmers in this climate we need to engage more with our customer and go beyond the farm gate.
“If you’re interested in trying some of the mutton featured in the TV show, you can buy it from our website http://www.carnedward.co.uk/ and you can find me at Farmers Markets on a Monday at Newport (Pembrokeshire) from 9am – 1pm, Tuesday’s at St Dogmaels from 9am – 1pm, Saturday (1st & 3rd of the month) at Aberystwyth Farmers Market and on the last Saturday of the month at Uplands Market, Swansea,” added Robert
Cattle and sheep prices rise
HISTORICALLY high market prices for cattle and sheep are helping to push Wales’ agricultural sector into the black, according to market analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).
Welsh Government projections, released as part of its ‘Aggregate agricultural output and income’ and ‘Forecast of farm incomes in Wales’ statistical reports, show that agriculture is now worth almost £1.6 billion to the Welsh economy.
Beef and sheep farming – along with the dairy sector – are by far the largest contributors to this value, with the PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef brands helping to secure millions in sales in the UK and export markets.
According to HCC, strong cattle and sheep prices at market are continuing to help sustain profitability, although the weather has had an impact.
“Market prices for June have continued the trend we’ve seen since the beginning of the year,” said HCC’s Data Analyst Glesni Phillips. “Poor weather in early spring is restricting the number of new season lambs coming on to the market, which has contributed to prices remaining around 10p per kilo higher than last year. Beef cattle prices are also strong, helped by a barbecue boom in the warm month of May.”
However, Glesni noted that average farm incomes were still modest, and that uncertainty over access to vital European markets after Brexit meant that forecasting future price movements was unusually difficult.
“According to Welsh Government figures, average incomes on a beef and sheep enterprise in the Less Favoured Area (LFA – which makes up over 80% of Wales’s agricultural land) are only just over £25,000,” she said. “Given that market prices are unlikely to remain at this level, and that considerable political uncertainty exists over possible levels of exports and imports of red meat, this highlights the need for agricultural businesses to prioritise on-farm efficiency as part of their Brexit preparations.”
TFA calls for Inheritance Tax changes
THE TENANT FARMERS ASSOCIATION (TFA) has called for a radical change in the operation of Agricultural Property Relief (APR) in its response to the call for evidence issued by the Office for Tax Simplification for its Inheritance Tax review.
TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said “For many rural landlords the taxation framework within which they operate has a major influence over the decisions they make about how they manage their land. The TFA believes that the Government should be using this sensitivity as leverage to achieve wider objectives for the resilience and sustainability of the tenanted sector of agriculture”.
The introduction of the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 represented a major deregulation of the agricultural let sector. Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) were ushered in with the intention of improved efficiency of land use, whilst increasing opportunities for both progressing farmers and new entrants within the agricultural sector.
“Over two decades on and the TFA believes that neither of these objectives have been attained. Whilst we saw an increase in the amount of let land through the early years of the new legislation this has, by and large, tailed off. However, the biggest failing has been the perpetuation of short lengths of term leading to inefficiency. Short term tenancies are holding back progression, investment and sustainable land use. FBTs have been too short for too long and now is the time for that to change,” said Mr Dunn.
A big advantage to the taxpaying landlord is the ability to have 100% APR from Inheritance Tax for the agricultural value of their holdings let after the 01 September 1995. However, the TFA questions whether this relief should be so widely available. In circumstances where landlords choose to let for short lengths of term, there is little in the national interest to be gained from providing landlords with such a generous tax advantage.
“There needs to be a radical reform of the Inheritance Tax framework for agricultural land as it applies to landlords. Allowing for exemptions for specialist cropping lets on a rotational basis, APR should be abolished except in relation to land let for 10 years or more without a landlord’s break clause,” said Mr Dunn.
“Using changes in APR to improve the average length of term on FBTs will impact positively on the productivity, resilience and sustainability of the tenanted sector of agriculture, which is now responsible for farming around a third of the agricultural area of the country,” said Mr Dunn
Royal Welsh to be blooming great
THE ROYAL WELSH AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY has announced it will be holding ‘The Great Royal Welsh Bloom Off’ competition during the main show on July 23-26.
Have you got a wedding coming up? This would be the perfect opportunity to learn how to arrange wedding flowers and win a wedding bouquet designed and arranged by renowned, award winning florist, Jonathan Lloyd-Davies.
Designed and sponsored by Johnathan of Johnathan’s Flowers, the competition, taking place in the Horticulture Marquee on the Tuesday (Jul 24) of the show, is open to anyone who has not previously competed in the floral art section of the Royal Welsh Show or Winter Fair, and who is interested in learning how to arrange flowers for an upcoming wedding.
Competitors do not need any previous experience (No NAFAS members), there will be no entry fee and all materials will be provided. But hurry, entries must be made in advance as spaces are limited.
The competition will follow the lines of the popular ‘Great British Bake Off’ programme, with contestants, in this instance, first taught to delicately arrange wedding style button holes, with the successful competitors proceeding to the next round to create a beautiful bridal bouquet under Johnathan’s watchful eye.
Jonathan established his business, Jonathan’s Flowers (www.jonathansflowers.co.uk), back in 1993 and has since gone on to provide an inspirational and personal florist service to South Wales and beyond. Specialising in floral designs to weddings and corporate clients, Johnathan has an impressive list of happy clients, including Catherine Zeta Jones, Bonnie Tyler, leading hotels in both Cardiff and Swansea, Glorious Goodwood, Royal Ascot and Wentworth Golf Club, to name just a few.
This exciting competition is just one of the many floral extravaganzas you will find in the Horticulture Marquee at the Royal Welsh Show. Packed full of fruits, vegetables, floral art displays, cut flowers, pot plants, window boxes and planters, a children’s decorated wheelbarrow competition, demonstrations, gardening question time, and the Welsh National Honey Show, amongst other delights… it really is worth a visit!
For more details and entry forms for ‘The Great Royal Welsh Bloom Off’, please contact: 01982 554409 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The pinnacle event in the British agricultural calendar, the Royal Welsh Show, will be held on July 23 – 26 at the showground in Llanelwedd, Builth Wells.
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