Old Macdonald's farm made new

If Old MacDonald had his farm in Somerset, he wouldn’t be looking after ordinary cows or pigs – it would be organic spelt, pure-bred Hebridean and Manx Loghtan or rare Gloucester Old Spot.

In fact, three real MacDonalds who have farming and produce businesses in Somerset are making a name for themselves with top quality, elite brands that are carried by Waitrose, Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason.

This is a feature of Somerset’s food and drinks industry and emphasises its entrepreneurial spirit, which is attracting new, go-ahead businesses, says Somerset 3D.

Award-winning Bay Tree Food Company, which manufactures and distributes a wide range of preserves, sauces, chutneys, desserts and more through independent UK speciality retailers, is a prime example of this ethos.

Director and co-founder Emma Macdonald, says. “Somerset is very business-focused and has a great diversity of small business. The people are generally friendly and helpful. The potential for business space at a reasonable price is good so you can spend more money on your business.

“There is a huge selection of small businesses that we can connect with and have the opportunity to work with. Somerset has a strong sense of belonging making for good relations between businesses.”

Somerset has excellent transportation system, says Emma. “The road system is good most of the time so you will not spend hours in traffic. We are only two hours from London or Birmingham. There are good rail links and a couple of smaller airports that are growing fast.”

Echoing these sentiments, Leona McDonald from Sharpham Park, an organic food farm and Farmhouse Breakfast Champions SW, based near Glastonbury, says, “The roads and airports are well serviced and easy to use. I travel frequently from Castle Cary to London Paddington and enjoy this journey very much. The service is fast, efficient and simple. Just the way I like it!”

Sharpham Park is the family home of Roger Saul, founder of the British designer label Mulberry, and his wife Monty. Together they created the organic spelt food and rare breed meat range, Sharpham Park, www.sharphamparkshop.co.uk out of their passion for sustainable farming, and healthy, natural food.

Leona re-iterates the importance of the Somerset lifestyle. “Somerset’s lifestyle is key to who we are and what we produce. The frenetic pace of life in London is just not suitable for what we do. Market towns are such a valuable part of the local community. I have recently had the pleasure of judging the best farmers market for the Taste of Somerset Awards, and it was a really warming experience. From the producers to the shoppers, the passion was tangible.

“The networking and support from locals, businesses and even competitors is unsurpassed. We have great relationship with fellow mills, shops, gardens, butchers and this all helps when starting a new business. Also, the countryside is beautiful and just ten-minutes away from your desk here outside in the fresh air is worth more than an hour in a city.”

For premium apple juice and cider maker The Orchard Pig, its surroundings are a crucial and integral part of its business.

Neil Macdonald, of The Orchard Pig, says, “Our orchards are set in forty-five acres of sublime Somerset countryside at West Bradley, near Glastonbury.  Orchards are part of the traditional landscape of the county and we are delighted to be leading the way in conservation and concern for the environment.

“Businesses, particularly those like ours that depend on the land, must embrace a greener approach, and in Somerset we find that people are enormously enthusiastic about this, seeing it very much as the way forward."

Named after the rare breed Gloucester Old Spot pig that loves to forage on fallen apples, The Orchard Pig is one of the new stylish brands of apple juice and cider that are making a mark with the public.

Orchard Pig makers Andrew Quinlan and Neil Macdonald say, “We keep Gloucester Old Spots for their intelligence and friendliness. They love the outdoors and have a really relaxed approach to life, so when we decided to make our pure apple juices and ciders we thought it would be great to name the company after them.”

Neil is passionate in his commitment to the best possible product.  “We manage our own orchards, and many others belonging to smaller owners, with the greatest possible care.  From the soil in which the trees grow all the way through to the fruit itself we strive to create the best possible environment because great fruit makes great apple juice and cider.”

And it shows – The Orchard Pig has collected an outstanding crop of awards for its products and is found on the shelves and tables of some of the best establishments in the country.

Neil Macdonald, married to fellow business-minded food-lover, Emma, of The Bay Tree Food Company, says, “If you like rural spaces, but with a strong business and driven lifestyle, Somerset has it all. There are some main cities to tap into as well as plenty of countryside pursuits. It is interesting to note that Somerset is the most densely populated county for artisan food producers and as a producer of food has the widest diversity of food production types.”

Orchard Pig products are distributed direct and through The Bay Tree Food Company: www.thebaytree.co.uk.

Somerset boasts a dedicated network of 8,500 farmers and food producers – the most in the UK. The sector as a whole supports around 15,000 jobs.
Among the best-known Somerset food and drink companies are dairy producer Yeo Valley Organics; Gaymer, Sheppey, and Thatchers cider companies and the Somerset Cider Brandy Company; Robert Wiseman milk processor; Bridgwater-based Gerber Juice Company, Britain’s top juice manufacturer; specialist brewers Cotleigh and Butcombe; Romford Wholesale Meat and Brown and Forrest, producing a range of smoked fish and meat; award-winning Wyke Farms Cheddar and famous traditional cheddar from Keens, Montgomery and Westcombe.