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Farming and diversification

This was the subject of Whizz’s (Mrs Isabel Middleton) talk to the Club in March. She explained that her family, the Shaws, had been farming in the Lilley/Hexton area of Bedfordshire for many, many years probably centuries. The farm is about 2,000 acres in an arable rotation of wheat, oilseed rape and beans;  the wheat goes to Warburtons the bakers and to Weetabix.  She explained the complexities and challenges of modern farming.

David Burton with Mrs Isobel Middleton (Whizz) before her talk

These range from the right rotation and varieties, use of computer control with machinery and the lack of appreciation of the public of modern farming. Whizz explained that the farm follows conservation measures throughout its operation including the provision of specially sown areas with plants offering year round food for birds. These measures are backed up by an annual audit of wild birds; a woodcock appeared earlier this year and regular assessments of soil health.

In seeking diversification Whizz looked at the opportunities of making better use of some of their own products. This led to a small quantity of oilseed rape being cold pressed and producing a high class oil equivalent to extra virgin olive oil. With the help of her sister, a PR professional, the brand “Mrs Middleton” was established and a range of oils produced. These have consistently won gold stars at The Great Taste Awards since 2014. The great difference between these oils and others is that every bottle’s label carries information which field the crop was grown in and the grid reference. Working with local chefs Whizz has also been broadening the range to include mayonnaise. In addition Whizz is working with Stotfold Water mill to produce genuine stone ground flour from their own wheat. Again this his won gold stars at the Great Taste Awards.

The oils (left) and the flour which form key elements of the diversification

                 

Following her informative, interesting and intriguing presentation the Club members were able to sample a delicious chocolate cake she had made with rapeseed oil as well as the full range of oils themselves.

In thanking Whizz for her presentation David Burton suggested that with young and dynamic farmers like Whizz the industry was in safe hands for an exciting future.

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