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Greetings from our base in Ripon. With spring sprung, and the clocks moving forwards, I wanted to use my update this month to talk about the seasons, and, more specifically, food seasonality.
If you haven't yet ordered for Easter, I highly recommend doing so sooner rather than later as demand for delivery slots is high. Our available delivery slots include Good Friday and Easter Saturday this year.
It is our most exciting Easter range yet, with Jeff Baker's chef-prepared creations adding a new collection of roasting joints to try. He has taken inspiration from the landscapes and flavours on our doorstep in Ripon to pair our luscious meats with seasonal flavours that are local to us.
For us at Farmison & Co, Easter is the beginning of Spring. In the food business, the change of the seasons is fundamental, and especially for our hard-working farmers. For our partners in the Dales, Spring is announced through the graft of lambing. Most people never get to experience lambing, and I hadn't either until I founded Farmison & Co ten years ago. It's a visceral and uncompromising experience, and it vividly shows what Spring is about - new life.
A good lambing season - or a bad winter - can make or break livelihoods in this region. A connection to the seasons like this remains strongest in the farming community. While the majority of city dwellers at least used to eat seasonally, a walk down the supermarket aisle on any day of the year will show crops from all over the globe.
This disconnection with where food actually comes from, when to eat it, and what to eat it with, can be damaging. I keep a keen eye on consumer trends, and too often I find, a sustainable diet is equated with a plant-based diet that features heavily crops from halfway around the world and out of season. Is there anything better than a ripe English strawberry in June or July, and is there anything worse than a brittle out-of-season imitation? I recently caught myself chiding my sister-in-law for cooking a Sunday lunch complete with aubergines in March! (But she is forgiven for being a superb home cook).
Furthermore, it is no good switching to a plant-based diet for sustainability reasons if these plants come from chemical-intensive and monoculture systems, transported from all over the globe.
Now, I am not saying importing food is a bad thing, far from it, but I am saying seasonality should be central to the discourse that surrounds sustainability. It is a tragic irony that climatic change to seasonal weather patterns in the form of high temperatures and unpredictable rainfall could wreak havoc for British farmers - those who have most connection to the seasons.
The recent 'Farming for Change' report from the Food, Farming, & Countryside Commission looks at ways British agriculture can reduce its carbon footprint. For instance, it notes that to make strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, vegetable production needs to be seasonal.
There's a bigger picture here, of which seasonality is part. Interestingly, it also argues that while livestock have become "the climate villain" of global agriculture, they can be a part of the footprint reduction. I believe a change in the reputation of livestock is afoot, as commentators realise there is a huge divide in standards at home and abroad. Nuance and holistic views are needed. Livestock aren't necessarily baddies, they provide essential services, especially in terms of soil regeneration and enhancing the biodiversity of grasslands.
At Farmison & Co we see it every day. At our suppliers Beswick Hall, their Belted Galloways are part of the ecosystem in the wetlands they graze. Up in Wharfedale, David Harrison's Galloways graze the limestone pavement and through their selective grazing encourage rare plants and wild flowers to grow.
For many farmers in these parts, like those lambing at the moment, the report's arguments will echo received wisdom. Of course we should eat seasonally; of course cattle and sheep are good for soil; of course their presence supports an array of other species. I believe consuming food - including meat - that is produced from close to home is the way forward, and certainly should be part of the sustainability conversation which includes eating seasonally. As ever, if you have any thoughts or feedback, please do write to me via [email protected] I always make time to read your comments.
CEO and Founder of Farmison & Co