Award welcome after tough time
RUTH Watkins, a past winner of Farmlifes Veronica Frater writing competition and former Farmlife diarist, triumphed again on Tuesday when she picked up a Nuffield scholarship.
Receiving one of the Trusts new Food Chain travel awards, in her case sponsored by Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and Royal Smithfield Club, was especially welcome after a difficult 18 months on her home farm.
The contiguous foot-and-mouth cull claimed the Limousin herd that she and husband Ken ran on 48.5ha at Dukes Farm, Craswall, Herford, and they decided not to restock. The land was let and Ken turned to making bespoke high quality furniture and joinery.
Ruth, who is studying agricultural business management at Seale Hayne College, became a part time, self-employed promotion manager for a company that produces a range of organic sprouted seeds for the chilled salad market. Run by Jim Hardy, Aconbury Sprouts also grows trays of spelt – a primitive cereal also called German wheat – seedlings for specialist juice bars. "There is growing consumer demand for wheatgrass juice, which is very rich in chlorophyll," says Mrs Watkins.
However, the promotional work she does for the company has not diminished Ruths interest in the meat market. She is still manager of Black Mountain Farmers, which is a presently inactive producer group established to market branded locally produced beef and lamb.
Her scholarship will allow her to travel to several northern European countries to study the production and marketing of value added cured meat products, particularly using beef from small scale producers.
She is convinced that groups of UK farmers can benefit from getting involved in direct selling, and in down stream processing of branded items like salami, salted beef, and biltong.
"Prospects for marketing raw meat on farms are limited, but I hope to discover the commercial potential for displacing some of the imported cured products that now dominate our market," she says.