Mark and I were recently treated to a wonderful evening at nearby Pipers Farm. One of the owners, Peter, ably assisted by his beautiful sheepdog Fly, showed us around the farm which showcases their grass fed, traditionally-reared livestock.
Pipers Farm is actually so much more than this little Devon farm with a view of the Blackdown Hills in the distance. The company supports a network of family-run farms and sells their quality meat online. It has a loyal following of ethically-minded consumers who want to know that the animals are treated well and reared outdoors in tune with nature.
On arrival we were welcomed into the orchard where we enjoyed sparkling elderflower and a little teaser of breakfast sausages, cooked over a fire pit and accompanied by Bloody Mary ketchup. Finger lickin' good!
Peter then took us up the field and into the lane, which was formerly the main road from Cullompton to Exeter. The 400 year old hedgerows are chock full of different native plants, and provide a highway for wildlife through the landscape.
Peter repeatedly drew analogy between the nearby M5 motorway, with traffic speeding by, and the fast factory production of animals for mass market meat and the slower, sustainable horse and cart production methods of Pipers Farm whereby young animals are allowed to remain with their mothers longer and feed out in the fields on grass or in the case of their native Devon Red Ruby cattle out on Exmoor on moorland vegetation.
By eating natural forage Pipers Farm livestock maintain balanced gut biomes meaning they require far less medication than densely stocked barn-reared animals. They also produce healthy cow pats which multitudes of insects help clear away and in turn provide food for birds and bats. Peter enthuses that their traditional farming techniques are healthier for the rural landscape, healthier for the animals, and healthier for those who eat them and I don't doubt him.
We watched a masterclass in sheep herding by Peter and Fly with a view of the Blackdown Hills in the distance, before moving on to see the characterful Saddleback pigs, many of which are reared outdoors at a family farm near to Blackdown Yurts at Orway. Very local indeed.
On arrival back at the farm we were treated to the most succulent and delicious chicken wings I think I've ever had, again cooked over one of the gorgeous braziers, and some wonderful smoked Saddleback pancetta.
Peter's wife and Pipers Farm co-owner Henri joined us for dinner in the stable where the rustic table was bedecked with jars of wildflowers. The main course was rare Red Ruby beef with Saddleback lardo-fried potatoes, salad with edible flowers and horseradish cream. Berries and cream followed along with a bonus course of Quicke's cheeses. The food was stunning.
Thanks to Peter and Henri for an entertaining and enlightening evening. As environmentally-minded people Mark and I have struggled with the ethics and environmental impact of eating meat. We try to have Meat-free Mondays (and Fishy Fridays) and often have numerous other vegetarian meals in the week, but we do like meat and we like variety in our diet. Having visited Pipers Farm I feel reassured that eating small amounts of meat sustainability produced from outdoor reared, slow grown, naturally fed, well cared for animals is no bad thing and actually benefits not only the rural economy but also the rural landscape and wildlife too. I was very impressed by Peter, Henri, and their ethos at Pipers Farm. Long may it continue to grow.
To book onto a Beyond the Hedgerow tour or to purchase their fabulous meat visit Pipers Farm's website.
The next tour is on Tuesday 4th September at 7.30pm. Book your yurt stay separately here.