TESTING TIMES & HEROIC SUPPLIERS
In these testing times, there have been a few silver linings. We have been heartened by the gratitude towards local businesses and, at a time when billionaires are asking to be bailed out by the government, it’s more important than ever to support local and independent businesses so that they can keep serving local communities whilst being viable and sustainable businesses.
We founded Jolly Nice because my parents were dairy farming in Westonbirt, on Historic England Grade I listed parkland next to the Arboretum and Westonbirt School, and we couldn’t make ends meet. Both my grandfather and great-grandfather farmed this land, but low prices and milk quotas enforced by the big companies supplying supermarkets made it impossible to function anymore, even with grants from the EU. As Melissa from Woefuldane Organic Dairy said to me a while ago, the true cost of a pint of milk is more than you pay at the supermarket. My sister Harriet started making her amazing ice cream as a teenager in our kitchen, adding value to our milk, and after supplying local pubs like The Priory in Tetbury and The Bell at Sapperton (as well as weddings and big events in London like a birthday party for Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen), my parents eventually opened our Farmshop at the derelict White Horse Filling Station in Frampton Mansell, just across the valley from where my mum grew up in Oakridge Lynch.
Farmers and food producers have had to adjust over the years, but in recent times have adapted very quickly, affected by the temporary closures of cafes and restaurants. Our local suppliers like Melissa and family, just a few miles down the road from us, have ensured we’ve kept well stocked, even throughout the weeks of panic buying. They have adapted quickly, probably discussing what to do around the kitchen table late at night like we did. Melissa bottles the milk and makes the butter and delivers it all, her husband milks their hardy native-breed Shorthorn cows and their son Henry runs a cafe and shop in Minchinhampton. The family have not poured milk down the drain, as many British farmers who are part of complex supply chains have resorted to doing - resulting in the National Farmers’ Union calling on the Government for financial aid, support and and “schemes to prevent the disposal of milk and look at crown buying service contracts to ensure our NHS, prisons and military all source British milk.“ This pandemic has brought many ongoing issues to the fore, and as well as supporting British farmers, at Jolly Nice we support local farmers. This not only gives them security, but it also has a direct impact on the environment, with small family farms and native British breeds such as Shorthorns and Gloucester cattle grazing outside for most of the year, promoting the growth of wildflowers. Farming like this protects our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the future of food - we know we have to look after our pollinators. The reduced transportation is yet another bonus!
Many of our local suppliers have worked extremely hard to keep their livelihoods going and put food on local tables. The Dickensons in Bisley have been supplying us with their amazing honey, as well as keeping their shop going, Hobbs House Bakery and Ori, The Artisan Baker, keep baking with stone ground organic flour from Shipton Mill just by Tetbury. Fred (pictured) at Prince Charles’ Close Farm has been bagging up potatoes almost as fast as we can sell them, in between planting out his organic seedlings and setting the polytunnels up for tomatoes. The Hamilton and Brunt families of Sherston Free Range Eggs and Manor Farm (Grittleton) have been boxing up as quickly as the eggs are laid and both have a new flocks of young hens to up production but keeping up their very high standards. We also have Arlington White eggs from the Bourns family in Stow-on-the-Wold and goose eggs every so often from Berkeley and Jonathan Crump in Standish, who also makes cheese and supplies our butchery with his Gloucester cattle.
All of these producers are small family farms, they put the welfare of their livestock and the health of the soil first. Farming families work hard every day of the year, with early starts and late finishes and work continuing with discussions around the table. We are very lucky to have them, especially when complex supply chains have caused havoc for the big businesses. Our suppliers farm in the way my great-grandfather Bill Wilson did, and so that one day my children and grandchildren can enjoy our beautiful Cotswold landscape, let's hope that these brilliant family businesses can remain financially sustainable.
By Jemima Wilson. Thank you to the editor of the Watershed Magazine, Bob Merrill, for commissioning this piece.