3 March 2000

Dales and Lakes set to sell lamb direct

By Nigel Burnham

SHEEP producers in the York-shire Dales and Lake District have formed a new direct selling venture in an attempt to fight their way out of the crisis by selling lamb direct to the public.

In the Dales Malcolm Campbell has linked up with four neighbouring farmers and founded Natural Dales Lamb.

The five take it in turns to supply the lambs – a mix of Swaledales and Suffolk crosses – which they are selling fresh or frozen in half-lamb boxes at between £25 and £30.

They are already selling about 12 lambs a week and demand is rising as they tap the well-spring of affection that visitors have for the Dales and its landscape. They hope to be able to sell up to 50 lambs a week when the tourist season starts in earnest around Easter.

Mr Campbell, who farms 400ha (1000 acres) at Castle Farm, Arncliffe – much of which is herb-rich limestone pasture up to 530m (1750ft) above sea level – said the farmers had got together "to sell a quality product direct to the housewife".

"Theres no need for a middleman," he said. "We have not been making any profit on our sheep for the past few years selling through the marts and because the landscape here prevents us diversifying in other ways, many Dales farms are on the point of extinction.

Mr Campbell added that Natural Dales Lamb would be marketed via the Internet later this year.

A group of five Rough Fell sheep farmers have also got off to a good start with a similar scheme in the Lake District. The farmers – who include Steve Dunning at Tebay, John Handley at Whinfell and Richard Simpson at Longsleddale – set up Rough Fell Lamb partly because of the collapse in mart prices but also because they believe it is of exceptional quality and because consumers can trust its traceability. For more on marketing see p24. &#42

A lamb marketing venture involving Malcolm Campbell and four other Yorkshire farmers is coming on in leaps and bounds.