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More than 100 farmers hear secrets of Fen Farm Dairy success on annual farm walk

By: Marketing Team Date: 10 July 2017
Category: Halesworth,Agriculture

Over 100 farmers from all over Norfolk and Suffolk visited a farm which has made a huge success of selling raw milk and making a Brie-style cheese, for the annual NFU/Lovewell Blake Farm Walk.

Fen Farm Dairy at Flixton near Bungay was the host for the 2017 walk, with visitors climbing to the top of the farm to hear the story of how the Crickmore family moved from traditional dairy farming into a more specialised route.

The talk was followed by a pasture walk and tour of the farm and its Montbelliarde herd, a talk about how the farm’s Baron Bigod cheese is made, culminating in a cheese tasting and barbecue back at the top of the farm, with stunning views across the Waveney valley.

Host Jonny Crickmore told the assembled fellow farmers how he joined the farm, which was then run by his father, in 1996. Inspired by a visit to a local free-range egg farmer who was making more through selling his ‘seconds’ direct to the public than he was from his primary business, Jonny hit upon the idea of selling raw milk at the farm gate, and was one of the very first in the UK to install a vending machine to do that – eventually building a business selling the machines to other farmers who wanted to go down the same route.

In 2012 the family decided to make cheese, and went to leading London cheese merchant Neal’s Yard to ask what kind of cheese they would buy – and so the Brie de Meaux style Baron Bigod cheese was created. From sales of four tonnes in 2013, the business has grown considerably, with production of more than 30 tonnes expected this year.

Mr Crickmore described the considerable changes the farm has had to make in the process, from changing the herd from Holstein to Montbelliarde cattle, investing in new buildings and facilities, and diversifying into other products such as Normandy-style butter.

“It is always interesting to hear the story of how a farm has built a successful business direct from the people who have made that success,” said Lovewell Blake agricultural partner Ryan Lincoln. “Our farm walks are designed to inspire and motivate farmers from our region, and this year’s was no exception.

“We would like to thank Premier Seeds for sponsoring the drinks, John Flatt for providing the barbecue, and Suffolk Meadow for the ice cream – and of course the Crickmore family for their generous hosting of the event.”

NFU group secretary Miles Savage added, “‘We are delighted to have hosted another thought provoking NFU Farm Walk. The weather was delightful and the venue for the BBQ on top of Constitution Hill overlooking the Waveney Valley was stunning. This combined with the generosity of our hosts, Jonny and Dulcie, and our sponsors made for a very special evening.’

(Pictured above, Jonny Crickmore telling farm walk attendees about the success of Fen Farm Dairy.)
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