In the West of England on the north coast lies the romantic and historical pastures of Exmoor and Dartmoor. These ‘working landscapes’ have been the powerhouse for British lamb and beef since the Tudor era. Noted by Elizabeth I’s Crown victuallers as the producer of beef and mutton for the larder”, nowadays the West Country still produces a quarter of British Beef.
Green rolling pastures, wildflowers, woodland and dramatic coastlines characterise Exmoor National Park. The stewardship of agricultural land has shaped and sustained this corner of England for centuries; it nestles in the middle of the largest agricultural region in England. Rearing livestock for red meat is imperative to maintaining and protecting the area’s unique landscape and heritage. As of 2018, the industry was estimated to provide 28,000 jobs and contribute £3billion per year to the British economy.
One such farm that Philip Dennis and – by extension – IDC work with, is Holdstone Farm near Coombe Martin. Fourth Generation farmer Chris Lerwill hand rears Angus beef on rolling meadows across Devonshire. When asked how his family got into farming, his scoffing answer came: he would need to go back “800 years”. His regenerative farming methods are such a part of Exmoor’s DNA as well as of his own, that they are linked intrinsically to his family’s identity. For Chris and the generations of his family that have reared cattle on this land, “a marker of good quality is a local product, provenance, history.”
Looking to the future, in order to strengthen working landscapes and supply chains to combat environmental concerns and ensure local communities can thrive, it is imperative for investment to be made into local infrastructure for the meat processing, dairy and veg industries. Thus, creating a strong food system in the UK; one that’s better for farmers, livestock, consumers and the environment. And incidentally, one that echoes our past agricultural glory. Supporting farmers like Chris at Holdstone that put tightknit, local networks at the heart of their businesses, while being mindful of the accreditations that promote quality and locality, ensures that the British farming industry can do the best by the landscape and communities it supports. Indeed, the work shines through on the plate; as Chris puts it, “what is most rewarding about my job is the product.”