Daylesford Farm: a step back in time

Date:23-08-2013 07:58:04 read:15

Daylesford Farm: a step back in time

The founder of the Daylesford farm shops, Carole Bamford, who built her business on the belief that good food begins with caring for the land, introduces their first cookbook.

Nice slice: butternut squash and kale tart Photo: Sarah Maingot
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  • Recipe

    Pan haggerty with mustard, egg and caper mayonnaise

  • Recipe

    Dark and white chocolate brownies

  • Recipe

    Braised brisket with lentils

  • Recipe

    Butternut squash and kale tart

  • Recipe

    Butternut squash chutney

What we are trying to do at Daylesford is to take a step back in time and relearn the skills and values of our grandparents, of a time when country people had kitchen gardens or allotments and ate what they grew. If they had a smallholding or farm, they raised crops to feed their animals, which in time would be slaughtered to feed the family. You might have a few hens for eggs, or a pig, or a cow to milk, so you might make butter and cheese, and it was all healthy and fresh and self-sustaining.

I grew up in the countryside in the Midlands, not on a farm, but close to farming, and the way we shopped was very simple. On Sunday we had a joint of meat. Monday would be leftovers day, then on Tuesday we would shop afresh for the week, at the butcher’s, the baker’s and the cheesemonger’s, and the fishmonger’s on Friday, which was always fish day. Everyone in the shop knew your name and what you liked, and it is that personal connection with food and the people who grow it and raise it that we are trying to achieve at Daylesford.

I really didn’t mean the project to grow as it has done; one thing led to another. It started with wanting to make a difference, on a small, family level after two chance incidents. The first was 36 years ago, when we were living and farming at Wootton, Staffordshire. I was in the garden with my first child, Alice, who was six months old. I was pushing her in her pram and we went to look at some roses I had planted and found they were wilting. It turned out that they were spraying Roundup on the farm. I didn’t know what Roundup was but I soon learnt it was a very powerful herbicide, and that the toxins had carried in the air from the fields and affected the roses. As a new mother, I was horrified.

Then, a little later, I was at an agricultural show, and the Soil Association had a little tent there. The organic movement was quite a small, niche thing in those days, but I went inside and talked for about an hour and a half to a man who was so inspiring that it was a real open-window moment. That night I said to my husband, ‘We can’t carry on farming as we are. We are ruining the soil and the environment with chemicals. We have to stop and think about what we are doing.’ It seemed so obvious to me that it was all about the soil. Unless you look after the health of the soil, you aren’t producing healthy food for us or for our animals.

That was the start. Then, when we came to Gloucestershire in 1992, the first thing we did was convert the land to be organic. It took a long time for it to clean itself, but suddenly wonderful things started happening. Wildflowers and plants that hadn’t been seen before began appearing in the undergrowth; I remember particularly many kinds of violets growing. Everything comes back to the soil, and ours began to be rich and dark and alive with worms – a totally different colour from soil that has had chemicals in it. I think there is no other way to farm.

The food I have always wanted to eat is very simple, and the recipe books I treasured most when I was learning to cook were full of down-to-earth nourishing food for the family. Some of the recipes we now use in the farm shop and kitchens have been in my family for a long time.

The home-grown produce I find most exciting is often the simplest: the winter black radishes, thinly sliced with sea salt and butter; purple sprouting broccoli; the first forced rhubarb; autumn damsons. In autumn, too, there are treasures from the trees: walnuts and cobnuts. Sometimes there is a bumper crop, sometimes none, but there is nothing nicer than a glass of wine and some wet walnuts.


'A Love for Food' by Daylesford Ltd (Fourth Estate, £30), published on Thursday, can be ordered for £26 plus £1.35 p&p from Telegraph Books (0844-871 1515)

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013