Oliver White - Grassfed; where is the UK revolution?
I am 31 years of age and a graduate in Agricultural Engineering from Harper Adams University. In April of 2014 year I was fortunate to be awarded the tenancy of a 125 acre Somerset County Council farm. This tenancy has provided me with a quantum leap in scale as it takes me from a 22 acre small holding where I started my farming enterprise five years ago to now a total of 147 acres of new and permanent pasture at Greenway Farm near Ilminster and Grove Farm, Taunton. Native cross breed cattle, purebred Poll Dorset sheep and Legarth strain geese form the basis of my farming system, all of which are reared on an extensive, low input grass-based system. As far as possible, I retail as much produce as I can through my online shop www.farm2fork.co.uk where I am able to offer both farm-gate collection and a nationwide delivery service. The website also provides my customers with the story behind and an insight into my farm and sustainable food production and the health benefits of grassfed meat.
I am passionate about farming, about grassfed sustainable agriculture and about farming in harmony with nature.
Greenway, my new farm, together with the Nuffield Scholarship provide me with a platform from which I can grow and build what I hope will become a long farming career. My ambition is to sustainably increase productivity and diversity on my farm in order to create a viable, rewarding and environmentally enhancing farming business.
Alongside my farming enterprise I also work part time as Commercial Director of Hestercombe Gardens Ltd, the wholly owned trading company of the Hestercombe Gardens Trust. Hestercombe is internationally famous for its 50 acres of grade 1 listed historic gardens spanning over three centuries of garden history and design, which are open to the public. The Trust also runs a contemporary arts gallery, two restaurants, two shops and a watermill together with a busy events and functions business including weddings and conferences. It has an extensive education and activities programme as part of its diverse output that together cater for over 80,000 visitors a year www.hestercombe.com.
My Nuffield Farming Scholarship study will centre on an investigation into why the benefits of 100% grassfed meat and dairy are not widely promoted within the UK food market. Having identified the constraints, the aim of the project is to raise awareness amongst consumers and establish the product as a significant market sector.
100% grassfed meat is widely recognised in North America as a healthier, lower carbon alternative than conventionally produced meat and dairy and as such is produced by thousands of farmers and is stocked, labelled and marketed in major supermarkets across the continent. Whereas in the UK, one of the best grass growing countries in the world, awareness of the many benefits of 100% grassfed meat and dairy are known only to a minority of farmers, producer groups and consumers with a specialist interest or diet.
On the face of it 100% grassfed would appear to offer a clear marketing advantage in the current climate where customers are more and more concerned with their health, the well being of the animals that provide the food they eat and the environmental impact of the farming system used. With low production costs and apparently strong profit margins what is it that is preventing Britain's farmers from exploiting this apparently wide open market?
After an initial period investigating the current British scene my areas of research will encompass the USA, Canada and Uruguay where 100% grassfed meat and dairy is firmly established as a consumer product in the local market. The Nuffield Farming Scholarship will provide me with the opportunity to investigate, learn and draw conclusions from my study which in turn will hopefully enable me to be able to make recommendations as to how the market for grassfed can be grown in Britain. I shall also look at what opportunities there might be for the further development of grassfed meat products in the future.
I am proud to have been awarded this opportunity, as I shall be following in the footsteps of my grandfather, Ronald G P White, who was one of the first recipients of a Nuffield Farming Scholarship in 1949, and am looking forward to sharing the results of my research with Nuffield scholars, consumers, retailers and the wider farming community.