In this blog I talk about my recent visit to the Assembly House. Then some very happy cows at Fen Farm that makes award winning local cheese, Baron Bigod.
There are a few places that trigger very special memories for me. The Assembly House is one of them. I recall the day it caught fire, I cried. It was the last link I had to my grandmother. When shopping for school shoes if we behaved, we were treated to tea and a sausage roll in the chandelier lit dining room, with fine china, I felt like a princess.
Yet phoenix like it rose from the flames and it is still a treat, that on down days I enjoy.
Under the leadership of Richard Hughes, it has kept its traditional expectation of quality, yet innovated with its Cooking School, bringing top Food & Drinks experts to the region to share their skills. A brief chat with Richard over English Breakfast tea and you become affected with his passion to support quality local produce, leading to a range of events from Cheese to recreations of his time at the Lavender House.
It is local produce that I am thinking of at present, over the last few years I have been listening to people becoming more concerned about the environment. Each person having different ideas about what they can do to have less of an impact. I don’t think that there is one solution, yet I feel that if we shopped locally, brought seasonally and had knowledge of the food and drink we consume it can make a positive impact.
With this in mind I travelled to Fen Farm, Bungay, to visit Jonny Crickmore. The home of the raw milk dispenser and Baron Bigod. To say that Jonny is passionate about his cows, ethos and business is an understatement. Within minutes we were up close to the beautiful girls, without whom this farm would not survive. The Montbeliarde cows have been selected because they are the breed of cows used by the Brie producers that Jonny studied with before making his first English Brie. They graze the meadow lands by the river until winter brings them into the sheds, where they are still fed from produce the farm has harvested over the year.
The farm has been at the forefront of trailing new ideas and investing in the environment. The sheds supply all the electricity for the farm and dairy from solar panels. The cows and sheds help to heat the water used by the dairy; water pipes have been laid under the shed increasing the temperature from 4 degrees in the winter to 30+. Jonny has combined technology and the environment to help keep the cows healthy, limiting the use of medicines as they work with ‘good’ bacteria, while understanding each cows habits checked on a minute by minute system.
I have visited a few intensive farms, used for the production of milk or cheese and although you can tell that the cows are looked after, there is something different in the smaller production. I think if I was ever reincarnated as a cow I would want to be one on Fen Farm. I firmly believe that the care and ethos of the Crickmore family and team is reflected in the quality of the produce they make.