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Well, well, well! We’re a winner!

We’re very pleased to announce that at Monday night’s Cotswold Life Food and Drink Awards, Pancake Farm was announced as the ‘Best Local Producer/Supplier’, a category sponsored by The Daffodil. An already marvellous night, thanks to the wonderful setting of the Centaur, the presence of HRH The Princess Royal and a fabulous locally-sourced three-course dinner, suddenly became magnificent.

Being nominated again in 2013, after our commendation last year in the ‘Best Food Product’ category for rubyVEAL, a joint venture that we undertook with Manor Farm, Chedworth, was already an accolade as far as we were concerned. We were happy with that. We would have been quite content with another commendation. But to win the category, against extremely stiff competition in the form of The Artisan Bakery and Ross & Ross Foods, was a complete shock; we were completely taken by surprise when Melanie Jones, of sponsors The Daffodil, read out our name.

It’s a fantastic vindication of the goals and objectives we’re worked to achieve in the five years since establishing Pancake Farm. Although we both come from farming backgrounds – Liz a farmer’s daughter, me carving out a career as an agricultural marketing and public relations consultant – neither of us ever thought we’d be able to realise our ambition to run our own farm. Land’s too expensive to buy; tenanted farms are like hen’s teeth. But when we moved to Chedworth in 2007, a neighbour offered us use of one field. Five Wiltshire Horn sheep arrived and we felt on top of the world.

Those five sheep made a huge difference to the appearance and health of that field. People noticed. We were offered – free of charge – extra land to graze. Those five sheep were quickly joined by a further six. Lambs were born. Ewe lambs were kept. New rams were bought. Suddenly we were farming almost 100 acres of the Chedworth Valley and the flock expanded to suit. Pancake Farm was growing and far from being a hobby, it was now a fully-fledged business – in addition to us maintaining our full-time jobs.

Our objectives were simple. We wanted to produce meat that WE wanted to eat. It had to be tasty. It had to be raised correctly. It had to be fed properly. The animals producing it wouldn’t be fed concentrates to make them grow faster; we’d grow them at the rate they grew naturally. In the same way, if the grass didn’t grow as quickly as we’d like, we wouldn’t resort to fertiliser to force it to grow unnaturally fast, crowding out the dozens of other species we have in our pastures that lend a distinctive flavour to the meat. If they weren’t ready to sell, we would have to wait until they were. We’d be careful about the overly-routine use of medicines; our animals were, in any case, generally more healthy because of the way in which they were farmed. We’d select our abattoir carefully; the taste and quality of the meat is as much to do with how it’s handled after slaughter as it is to do with how the animal’s raised and produced. Our lamb, hogget and mutton has a unique taste, thanks to the abundance of different species of grass and other meadow herbs and plants, and their relative dominance at different times of the year. An animal grazing through the winter will eat a different diet to one that’s been enjoying lush summer grass; that variance in diet is reflected in the meat’s flavour.

Unsurprisingly, following that philosophy produced meat that people enjoyed eating and that chefs – such as the marvellously supportive and loyal Matt Wardman at Fossebridge Inn, where the food miles are almost counted in fractions; Eric Lepine at Le Beaujolais in Cirencester, who’s been effusive in his praise for our veal and hogget; and Rob Rees, whose apprentices I enjoyed working with to tell them about the merits of quality, pasture-raised veal – really enjoy working with.

We’re delighted that our judges recognised not only the quality of our final product – our meat – but also the level of commitment and service to our customers that’s at the heart of Pancake Farm. Food is something we can’t do without, but that doesn’t mean we should treat it as a commodity and seek to produce it at the lowest possible cost. Costs saved in one place are usually only incurred somewhere else. That’s the beauty of the Cotswold Life Food and Drink Awards; they recognise and reward good business and great effort. Everyone who was present on Monday night shares a common belief and one I suspect that many would go to great lengths to defend: good food binds us and unites us and delights us.

Winning in 2013 has certainly delighted us; thank you to all of those who took the time and trouble to nominate us and of course all the sponsors who made the Awards Ceremony so enjoyable, including our category sponsor The Daffodil.

To see the moment Pancake Farm’s category was awarded, fast-forward to 20:00 exactly in Cotswold TV’s coverage of the event here: Pancake Farm on Cotswold TV

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