- Published: 21 May 2014
Last week (15 May) two pioneers of organic farming shared their experiences over supper with customers at The Royal Oak pub in Bishopstone, Swindon. Local organic meat producer, Helen Browning, shared the stage with Guy Watson, founder of organic box scheme Riverford. With over 50 years of organic farming experience between them the audience was in for a treat.
Helen Browning’s Organic supplies fresh organic pork to online retailer, Riverford, whose underlying principles are based on supporting local farmers and keeping a close link between grower and consumer. Hence, the meeting of minds in Swindon last week. On the menu was belly of pork and an abundance of vibrant Riverford vegetables.
“With Riverford we have found a business that works in a similar way to us,” says Helen Browning. Both businesses started out in a small way driven by a desire to make simple good food more widely available. The Riverford box scheme began when Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends in Devon. It now delivers around 47,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from its regional farms. Helen Browning’s Organic began selling from the farm gate and now supplies Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Abel & Cole and Riverford with its range of pork products.
In her address last week, Helen said, “Growing up on the farm was idyllic but during the mid-eighties farming went through its worst period ever. Hedges were ripped out and wildlife disappeared. This was tough to witness. Added to this, when I was at university I was introduced to intensive livestock farming for the first time. It was a shock that proved to be life changing and fuelled my desire to find another way.
“Animal welfare standards were poor in the eighties,” continued Helen. “Thankfully things have changed and I think the birth of organic farming has helped to improve farming generally. For us animals take centre stage so that people can eat meat with a clear conscience.”
One of the questions raised at the supper was ‘If you could change one pre-conception about organic food what would it be?’ Guy Watson came back with a wry smile, “that we’re all hippies…I am not a hippie.” Helen said, “that organic is just for posh people. Everyone should be able to enjoy it. It is not exclusive.”
Helen Browning’s organic meat and Riverford’s veg provide lots of inspiration for summer suppers and barbecues. Check out the latest offers on www.helenbrowningsorganic.co.uk and www.riverford.co.uk and if you are looking for something fun to do this holiday weekend visit The Queen’s Pig Racing Handicap which will run from The Royal Oak on Sunday, 25th May. Money from sponsorship will go to local charities, the Swindon Deaf Children’s group and the Injured Jockeys’ Fund.
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Note to editors
Samples, images, interviews available on request.
Background – Helen Browning’s Organic
Helen Browning has been farming organically at Eastbrook Farm in Wiltshire since 1986, and her branded bacon and sausages are sold in the supermarkets. She is also Chief Executive of The Soil Association, the national leading organic standards and campaigning organisation.
Helen’s pub, The Royal Oak, in the middle of the farm, is listed by Michelin in their top 500 food pubs 2009-2013, and won a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2012\13; Good Food Guide 2009-13 – and Helen’s burgers were listed in the Top 5 of UK’s best burgers; Good Pub Guide 2012; Alastair Sawday's Special Places 2009-2012; in 2011 it was awarded Three Star Sustainability Champion status, one of only four such establishments in the country, by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Sirloin beef and Hot Dogs won Gold in the Soil Association Organic Food Awards 2013; Gold Award winner, Soil Association’s Food For Life scheme.
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