Sixty-two products were bestowed with one of the food and farming industry’s highest honours, a National Trust Fine Farm Produce Award, at a ceremony in London last night.
It was the first time – and fitting for the 10th anniversary – that so many products met or exceeded the strict judging criteria of the conservation charity’s food and farming awards.
Three producers excelled to be crowned overall food and overall drinks winner and a special award, for producer of the decade, was announced.
Organic natural yoghurt from Ashclyst Farm Dairy near Exeter in Devon and English sparkling wine from Charles Palmer Vineyards near Winchelsea in East Sussex were presented the overall food and drinks winner respectively. Potatoes from Trehill Farm in Pembrokeshire won the special producer of the decade award.
The annual awards this year held at Vintage Salt on Selfridges rooftop as part of its yearly ‘Meet the Makers’ campaign, celebrate the very best produce from the National Trust’s 1,500 tenant farmers and estates across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Products not only have to excel in the obligatory taste test, but entrants also have to pass a checklist of environmental standards to guarantee the quality and origin of ingredients alongside high standards of production. The winners were decided by a judging panel consisting of 10 food and drink experts, including representatives from Selfridges’ food team.
This year 37 producers in total were recognised for 62 outstanding food, drink and countryside products ranging from sausages to dressed brown crab and apple juice to beetroot.
Overall food winners Martyn and Lorraine Glover from Devon won for their organic natural yoghurt.
The couple have farmed at the 200 acre Ashclyst since 1998 and decided to build a milk processing unit three years ago to add value to the milk produced from their 80 strong herd of Meuse Rhine Issel cows.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have received this award. The marque itself is a great asset to our business. The award is recognised by our customers and the feedback we get from them is amazing.
“It’s a great testament to our team; we all work together to produce our organic dairy products to a high standard of taste and appearance.”
Charles Palmer from Charles Palmer Vineyards was significantly awarded the overall drinks winner on his first time of entering the awards. He has been a Trust tenant since 1998 and turned some of the land into a vineyard back in 2006 and he now has 15 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines.
Every year he prunes his 11,000 vines by hand ready for the year ahead and in July carefully removes some of the leaves to make sure the grapes receive as much sunlight and air as possible.
Finally, in October, when the fruits’ acidity and sugar levels are just right, you’ll find him tirelessly harvesting the grapes – again by hand.
All this care and dedication comes together in the bottle, where Charles leaves his wines to slowly ferment for up to three and a half years before being cellared for a further six months.
It’s a truly artisanal approach to wine making that’s earning Charles a reputation as one of England’s most exciting sparkling winemakers.
“Being so close to the sea we get a maritime effect, where the sun’s reflection heats the air,” he explains. “Yet we’re sheltered from the cooling coastal breeze by a ridge of hills. And underneath our feet, our subsoil is fundamentally the same as they have in Burgundy.
“From the outset, it wasn’t just about growing grapes for us. It was about making top quality wines and selling them. Winning an award as prestigious as this will really help us achieve our goal.”
Winners of the special producer of the decade award – Peter and Gina Smithies – grow potatoes across 600 acres on the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales.
The couple have been tenants at Trehill since taking over from Gina’s parents in 2001 and have entered and won an award for their crop every year since 2007.
Gina says: “This award gives our product a distinctive point of difference. The high profile National Trust brand helps drive sales by linking the charity’s core purposes with food production.
“The award itself gives us the confidence to present our potatoes to all customers, large or small.”
Rob Macklin, Head of Food and Farming at the National Trust, and chair of the judges said: “This is a landmark year for the awards and we are thrilled to be able to award more tenants and food producers than ever before.
“It really is the best way to mark the dedication and work our tenants put in to their businesses.”