Local Champion

Not content with running a family, a caravan and camping site, a bed and breakfast and a newly opened butchers, Sarah Righton has now the driving force behind an internet-driven Cotswold Breakfast dot com initiative network

which aims to champion locally produced food and boost the rural economy.

"We have nine B and Bs in the group and we reckon that each spends £4,500 a year on food ingredients. Every pound of that spent in a local butchers, farm shop or grocery store creates £2.50 of value for the people who work in the rural economy," says Sarah. If that pound is spent in a supermarket it is worth only £1.40 to the rural turnover. She calculates that the nine members will contribute at least £40,000 to the Cotswold community which stretches from Lechlade, in the south, to Mickleton north of Moreton-in-Marsh where Sarah and her husband Simon run Old Farm.

"With 40 members," she enthuses, "we could be contributing nearly half a million annually." Members have to be able to trace their meal ingredients back to the farm so that B&B guests can visit the producer or processor if they want to.

Sarah's B&B guests and customers of at the farm shop can walk the 280-acre [114 ha] Old Farm where there are 20 single suckler cows rearing Charolais cross calves; nine Gloucester Old Spot sows with pure bred or Large White cross piglets and this year, for the first time, Berkshire cross Old Spots. There are 250 Welsh half breeds tupped by a Charollais ram, which start to lamb this month. This year, there is a 194 lambing percentage, according to the PD scanner.

Most of the stock goes to Long Compton abattoir seven miles away. The abattoir reduces primals to retail joints and produces cuts to order. Sarah does the final preparation, packing cuts under the Old Farm label. She attended a four-day butchery course, run by Nigel Buxton at Robert Ensor's abattoir in the Forest of Dean. Robert is a keen supporter of meat trade training and is no mean performer himself taking the Gold Medal for being the top student at an advanced course he took at the Institute of Meat run by Fred Mallion.

Sarah's butchery pinnacle so far is a Cushion of Lamb. She also takes great pride in the preparation of the meat supplied to her son Sam's Blockley Primary School which also prepares lunches for her daughter Meg's playgroup. The teachers let the children know that the meat comes from Sam's parents' farm and now plan a series of visits there for the older children.

Corrin, the cook, is a great supporter of local produce and, together with Sarah, champions the cause of locally produced and prepared food. Their fame even spread to television where the producer of BBC1's Countryfile sent John Craven down to investigate and enjoy Pork and Orange casserole with herb dumplings. The diced pork was courtesy of Old Farm butchery.

Opened two years ago, the shop is run mainly by Sarah and Simon. As trade has increased, they have taken on extra help (Rowan Lawrance) to cope with the expansion. Customers enjoy the personal service and perfect traceability offered by the shop which is supported by a loyal group of middle-income shoppers.

The shop gets through about 60 lambs (averaging 20kg per carcase), 60 pigs, which kill out at around 50 to 52kg, and nine bodies of Charolais beef which is hung for a minimum of three weeks. The bacon carcases are heavier and are grown to 120kg live weight before being sent off to Simply Suppers, a local ready-prepared meal specialist, which also cures the bacon for the shop. Simon took a grading course at Kenilworth Abattoir so that he can keep an eye on meat yield through conformation and fat cover and maintain the right specification. Spare livestock is sent off to Farmers Fresh at Kenilworth.

Sarah is keeping stum about the performance figures for her tiny Old Spot sow herd even though she is an expert manager having worked for one of the world's largest pig breeders, the Pig Improvement Company, at Fyfield Wick, Oxfordshire, where she was 'Owned Farms' manager of a herd of 2000 sows. However, she does not need confirmation of the success of the sows or the rest of the enterprise as the farm butchery has made a significant contribution to the family fortunes.

Large year the shop contributed enough income to obviate the need for the Single Farm Payment for the 280 acres. In other words, the Righton's do not need the EU subsidy to survive which is the dream of everyone in farming and food production from the Austrian president of the EU to Tony Blair and DEFRA's Margaret Beckett .

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