I know I go on a bit about food and the various merits of animal welfare and such, but our last Devon camping trip had an unexpected bonus. As well as the usual pay-as-you-go-through-countryside-that-by-all-rights-should-be-free trips, we fell across the ultimate example of how food should be reared.
The quacking from the other side of the hedge at Barley Meadow C&CC site should have been a clue that there were ducks, but we were so busy with new found enthusiasm for cloud spotting (of which more another day) it took till late in the week to pop round the corner to Higher Fingle Farm for a dozen eggs.
Not only did we get our eggs but also an invitation to visit and learn about the organic farming of Neville and Rona Amiss, and the work of their daughter Elsa in rearing a flock of egg-laying ducks to become suppliers of high quality produce to Waitrose, Duchy Originals and other high-end retailers. That coupled with Neville's enthusiasm and intelligent approach to producing food in a way that is not only sympathetic to animals (before the killing them bit, Lisa) but also sympathetic to the environment, made this the most worthwhile (and cheapest) trip out on our holiday.
The trials that Elsa, Rona and Neville have gone through for their food to be acceptable to retailers was a fascinating insight in to the way that regulation aimed at satifying food hygiene and health and safety actually make it difficult to produce good food.
Talk about tail wagging the dog!
They are currently waiting to hear whether they have been sucessful with a grant application to help them purchase an egg washer - it's like a dishwasher but more careful - the current machine, that we saw in action, is a bit like a galvanised bucket that gently jiggles the eggs around in the water, but judging by the pile of broken eggs by the kitchen door, it's not always succesful.
Best for me was the discovery that Neville has his own small registered abbatoir on site which answered one of my biggest concerns about meat production - the transporting of animals miles from their home to, what amounts to, a killing factory. Neville's humane treatment means the animals are dispatched on-site quickly and kindly (if you can kill something kindly - I think you can).
Neville and Rona's philosophy and vision runs through everything they do like streaks through bacon; chatting to the people who actually produce food really does make the link between our plate and the field - if you get the chance to visit Higher Fingle farm - or any other friendly organic farmer - do take the opportunity; it will make you think differently about your food. Particularly the paying more and eating less bit - organic meat and food is expensive, no question, but we don't need to eat meat every day.
You can find out more about Higher Fingle Farm Here, or have a look at Elsa's Eggy Blog here - oh, by the way did I mention that Elsa is 11yrs old, and will be probably the only pupil to have her own flock of ducks and her own growing business when she starts senior school in September.
Now, here's my dilemma. Back in Oldham should I order some of Elsa's lovely eggs and incur the food miles all the way from Devon?
I think I can stand the guilt.