Music Videos and Sausage rolls - What goes on at Foxbury Farm?
PUBLISHED: 01:16 25 June 2012 | UPDATED: 10:36 21 February 2013
Colin Dawes and his family tend 600 acres on and around Foxbury Farm in prime Oxfordshire countryside. Not only do they run a farm and shop they also starred in their own music video. Discover more here....
Colin Dawes and his family tend 600 acres on and around Foxbury Farm in prime Oxfordshire countryside...
...where they rear cows, sheep and pigs, including Gloucestershire Old Spots. The top quality meat they produce is sold in their farm shop, which practises good old-fashioned butchery and stocks more than 100 different products, from British cheeses to local vegetables, ciders and beers. Even if you havent tried any of their excellent foods, you might be one of the hundreds of thousands of people whove viewed their music video I Am a Foxbury Farmer on YouTube. Intended as a bit of fun, the Foxbury Farm take on the Wurzels went viral and has proved an internet sensation.
Colin, we have to start by asking what inspired you to do your own
It was my daughter, Rebeccas, idea. She was joking to one of our customers about doing a video, and he said, Ive got a camera. Ill come and do it for you! The backing music is the Wurzels I Am a Cider Drinker, though we wrote the words ourselves and its us and our staff that you see taking part. A local community group the West Oxfordshire Academy of Performing Arts did the singing, but the Ooh arrs are all mine! When we checked a couple of weeks ago, the video had been viewed 855,000 times, which is just astonishing.
So, apart from the video, what do your customers like about Foxbury Farm?
Its a mixture of quality and animal welfare. We pick breeds that give a good balance between quantity of meat and great taste. And the welfare of the animals is part and parcel of the whole deal for me. When I was at college many years ago, one of the jobs I did was in an intensive pig unit where the blokes had no interest in the pigs at all. The animals were chained up; the sows went into the farrowing crate on the Tuesday and were induced to farrow on the Thursday so that no one had to go in at the weekend. I thought I might as well be in a factory making cars.
Your animals are very well treated but how do they treat you?
Cattle are my favourite. Sheep are the most stupid creature man ever got
involved in but they are the one farm animal which, if everything was let loose, would survive without any problems whatsoever. Pigs are the most intelligent by a long chalk, though I wouldnt say theyre affectionate.
Theyre like a cat with a mind of their own. But the cattle are easy-going and curious. Theres very much a pecking order in the herd: youve got the boss right down to the bottom cow. Its all down to personality and whos the strongest.
Your farm is free-range but not organic
Thats right, though we follow many organic practices. We gave up spraying about six years ago and we only use a small amount of fertiliser to keep the grass growing. As a result, we see so much more wildlife English partridge, lapwing, brown hare, deer. Thats a great pleasure for me: at the end of the day, one of the reasons for farming is to enjoy whats going on outside.
How important is your farm shop to the business?
Until about four or five years ago, it was an add-on to the farm; its now two-thirds of the business. Were trying to get customers to go back to the way things used to be; we want them to look for the whole range of meats, such as shin of beef and braising steak. Supermarkets will sell sirloin at something like 14 a kilo, which is 6 cheaper than were selling it, but its only been hung for a couple of days and you dont get the taste. Theyd be far better coming to us, spending 8 a kilo on braising steak and making a good stew and dumplings.
What else do you sell in the shop?
All sorts. All our cheeses are British; we get bread from Witney; eggs from five miles away; we stock Blenheim Palace water, Bensons fruit juice, and all our veg is from local farmers, allotments and other growers who use the same farming methods that we do. Two full time chefs prepare our ready-made meals in our kitchens, using our meat, and weve our own deli range sausage rolls, pasties and pork pies. The caf is
the final piece of our food chain; if, for example, we produce a new sausage, that goes on the menu so people can try it before they buy it. Our most popular dish is the all-day breakfast; everything on there is local.
Has farming been in your family for generations?
My father tells a story about how he built a farming empire on half a pound of sausages! My grandfather used to be a butcher, and father was his butchers boy. One hot day, father was told to take sausages to a lady at the top of a hill. When he got there, she complained, and he threw the sausages at her! Grandfather threw a wobbly and said to him, If you dont like being a butcher, boy, what do you want to be? And father replied, I want to be a farmer. So within a few weeks, theyd sold thebutchers shop and taken over a farm.
Do farmers ever rest?
We start about six in the morning and finish when the last job has been done at the end of the day but if I didnt love it, I wouldnt do it. You get a lot more pleasure out of messing around with cattle and sheep seven days a week than you would spending five days in an office.
Foxbury Farm Shop is on the BurfordRoad in Brize Norton, OX18 3NX, 01993867385; www.foxburyfarm.co.uk. Youcan view I Am a Foxbury Farmer atwww.youtube.com