Andrew Parry Norton

Episode 53 Andrew Parry Norton
New Forest Commoner

I think it’s fair to say that, from a global perspective, we’re living through uncertain times. In particular I hope as a listener of this podcast you are asking questions about what to eat, where to purchase our food and how our food choices are impacting the environment and world around us.   

Whilst sometimes these are complicated questions, what’s been inspirational about many of the podcast conversations I’ve now had, is how – despite the politics and complexity – many food and drink producers are just getting on with it, and making a big difference to their local communities. As this weeks guest, Andrew Parry-Norton puts it, ‘What’s on your doorstep is the most important thing.  Once you get that right, it spreads from there’.  

Andrew’s lucky.  He happens to have the beautiful landscape of the New Forest literally, on his doorstep.  As a Commoner, as well as a farmer, his animals can truly range free, through heathland and ancient woods. (Sometimes they range a bit too freely, as you’ll hear!) 

In this programme we explore the peculiarities of Commoning history. We also discover how, and even more fascinatingly, why, we are seeing the return of regional native breeds such as Ruby Red cattle and Saddleback pigs, rather than the influx of larger continental breeds.  It makes good business and environmental sense, especially now that the Commoners have their own shared brand, the ‘New Forest Marque’.  In essence, to support a more artisan, kinder, traditional approach to farming, Andrew needs to charge around 10% more and supply more directly to the end consumer.   

Is this the way other regions could go?

Show Notes: Episode 48 – James Mansfield and Field & Flower

The importance of eating higher quality meat in smaller quantities has came to light alongside the growth of sustainability in the hospitality industry over the past few years. James Mansfield forms a big part of this change and step in the right direction. From serving the Spice Girls in The Ivy Restaurant to slicing up meat sourced from sustainable farmers, James has always been a fan of food. This week he teaches us just why he and his business partner are creating their very own set of accreditation for the farmers they use – and how Field and Flower are small, but a successful and beautiful business model that will hopefully change the way we eat meat for the future.

Episode 48 James Mansfield
Field and Flower – grass fed meat by post

James Mansfield, is a master at learning on the job. When he and James Flower, a friend from agricultural college, decided to set up their meat box business, both of them had to perfect the art of butchery from a standing start. They also had to scale up their culinary skills very rapidly, so they could serve mouth-watering dishes to 2,000 VIP guests at Richard Branson’s V Festival.  

I was excited to chat to James since with alot of press recently about eating less meat for the sake of planet earth, I was intrigued to explore some issues around what good and bad practise looks like.  Is it a case of eating no meat, or eating better meat.  Caring more about animal welfare and recognising that how the animals we eat are cared for, what they eat and what drugs they take must surely be part of the informed conversation.  These could be tricky things to ask a butcher, but as expected James was engaging, knowledgeable and happy to educate. 

This willingness to jump in at the deep end and learn on the go partly explains why ‘field&flower’  is so successful today. It’s also because they’ve stuck to their principles: only supplying traditionally reared grass-fed beef, along with free range poultry, pork and lamb. It won’t surprise you to know that they’ve designed their own box packaging too, which is more environmentally friendly than the traditional poly box.  

As you’ll hear now, James’ hospitality career began in the same ‘nought-to-sixty’ vein, front of house at one of London’s most famous restaurants. 

Show Notes: Episode 46 – Guy Singh Watson and Riverford Organic Farmers

Guy has worked hard his whole life to build what is now a hugely successful business that not only grows sustainable, organic vegetables… But is also 74% owned by the staff that run it. Guy’s knowledge of soil, vegetables and the farming industry as a whole is truly phenomenal. Learn this week the truth about farming and supplying to supermarkets, and why Guy is an anti-capitalist that believes the government NEED to not only help in the way food and farming are regulated – but also how they need to realise the true potential and genuine nature of human beings. Contrary and simply contagious – meet Guy Singh Watson.

Episode 46 Guy Singh-Watson
Riverford Organic Farmers

When, in the 1990s, Guy Singh-Watson started delivering boxes of organic veg to neighbours and friends, he realised he was onto a winner. People loved the fact that the vegetables tasted great and were grown locally.   

He probably didn’t realise just how big a winner it was. Today Riverford Organic Farmers supply boxes to between 50 and 60 thousand households a week and have a team of 700.  

I was very excited to get to speak with Guy since I’ve read a number of his blogs about the impact of modern farming and monoculture.  Guy really brings to life the impact such approaches of mass production are having on the soil, and how important soil is for all of us to be able to continue to live on planet earth.  Fundamentally I wanted to learn whether ‘organic’ is really important and how much work should we, as the hospitality industry and the general public, be putting in to thinking about not only where, but how our fruits and vegetables are grown.  To say Guy has an opinion or two on this is an understatement.  But he makes the case eloquently and enthusiastically for change. 

While the business has scaled up, the guiding principle behind it has not shifted, as you’ll know if you’ve ever watched Guy’s YouTube series, ‘Guy’s Rants’. For him, respecting the health of our soil, through traditional mixed farming rather than rigid specialisation, is vital for the health of us all. 

Whether you agree with Guy or not, this programme will definitely make you think about consumer choice, and whether the world has gone mad in allowing us to choose delivery times to within 20 minutes or having little gem lettuces flown over from the States.  

Should the era of getting what we want, when we want it, come to an end? 

Let’s discuss…