Wow, wow, wow! An amazing evening at the 2018 Taste of Kent Awards at the Kent Event Centre as we picked up an award in every category we were in.
After a fabulous dinner from Curiously Kentish, the awards began and we picked up Highly Commended in the Kent Countryside Award. We got through the short listing based on our application form, and four judges came to visit in February. We showed them how we are striving for soil health all across the farm, not just concentrating on wildlife features like ponds and hedges.
Our next Award was for Best Bakery & Confectionery Food Product for our Stoneground Wheat & Barley flour – such a surprise given that it was judged against bread, cakes, biscuits, and other sweet treats. While we were waiting to have our photo taken, the winner of the Best Ambient Food Product was also announced – our Oak Smoked Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, and up we went again for our award.
A fabulous evening, not just for us, but for our friends in the food and farming community in Kent, including stockist Austen’s of Rochester (Best Retailer), Turner’s Cider, Bessie’s Tea Parlour, and The Ferryhouse Inn.
Summer’s always our busiest time of the year. We now have all our wheat, oilseed rape and barley in the barn. Just some peas and beans to come ready, which gives us a few days to plant next years oilseed rape, and some of those fantastic cover crops we’re so enthusiastic about. We’ve had some very pleasant evenings eating dinner in the field. Kent truly does come up with the goods when it comes to a nice sunset! A good hot dinner allows everyone to work on into the night.
Earlier in August we got two more Great Taste Awards. Our Pure Kent Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil and the Coarse White Wheat & Barley Flour both got 1 Star. For the oil, this is quite an achievement, as it was tasted by not just one table, but three tables of judges.
“A glorious deep golden colour with a gentle, clean creamy taste.” Pure Kent Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil
“.. a perfect loaf with good crumb and crust.. The taste was good and the bread had a good finish.” on Pure Kent Coarse White Wheat and Barley Flour.
We are supplying a few new shops, and also Elite Foodservice, who specialise in supplying the catering sector.
Earlier this year we entered our rapeseed oil in the Best Cooking Oil category of the Great British Food Farm Produce Awards. Impressed with our Entry form, we were shortlisted in the top ten with some well known brands of rapeseed oil and asked to send in a bottle. The judges awarded it Highly Commended and said “This oil has a nutty, toasted aroma which shines through when you taste it. It’s very sweet too, and has a lovely golden hue.” The only oil placed higher was from Aberdeenshire, another fabulous family farmer producer. We are proud to be British farmers producing good food.
Harvest is continuing, with only our spring planted crops left to bring in, namely barley and beans. Yields in Kent are very high this year, so the barns are pretty full. I will soon be milling this year’s wheat varieties for test baking so we can choose which one to mill for the next 12 months. We’ve got Edgar and Crusoe to try. Next year’s oilseed rape has been planted, once again on the Leeds Castle Estate.
If you follow us on Twitter, you may have seen us hosting a group of arable farmers for breakfast this week. One remarkable thing they were discussing was their use of pesticides. We farm conventionally, not organically, but most of the farmers reported no use of insecticides this year, other than in spring beans. Looking after wildlife and striving for sustainability are not restricted to the organic sector. Non-organic farmers continue to innovate! #backbritishfarming
Almost 10000 entries need 400 judges and almost 50 judging days all across the British Isles, to give stars to some of the best food in the world – wow! Run by the Guild of Fine Food, we posted our little bag of flour off to Dorset in April to be baked and blind tasted by at least 12 judges. A few months later we got a sentence back from the judges “… It made a perfect loaf of bread, well-risen, with good texture and crust. Delicious, fresh, slightly earthy flavour” and our Strong Wholemeal Flour was awarded not just one, but 2 Stars. Only a handful of Kent’s food producers got Stars this year, so we are over the moon!
In the meantime, things have been afoot on the farm. Hemings Bakehouse is currently setting up a new bakery on the farm, and we have a new mill. So in the autumn, we’ll be milling wholemeal and white flour, and Phil the baker will be baking it into fabulous fresh local loaves within sight of the fields which grow the wheat! As both Phil and we sell through Farmers’ Markets, we’re planning on pooling resources to get more loaves, flour and oil out to more customers.
As most shops only need a few bags of flour at a time we will be offering retail bags of flour through the wholesaler Cheeseworks, and at a few local farm shops. If you’d like to try our flour, ask your local farm shop or deli in Kent or Sussex if they order from Cheeseworks, if so, they should be able to get hold of some for you.
Harvest has ground to a halt due to rain and showers in the last few days. All of the rapeseed is harvested and about 60% of the wheat. Hopefully we’ll get some dry settled weather next week and can finish harvesting wheat and oats.
Eckley Farms is a family owned farming partnership, growing arable crops in the Weald of Kent. We’ve been here since the early 1950s, but only recently started producing Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil and flour under our Pure Kent brand.
We produce Farm Assured crops under the Assured Combinable Crop Scheme, part of the Little Red Tractor Farm Assurance Scheme. We are also members of Produced in Kent, a membership organisation dedicated to championing local food and drink, and Kent Farmer’s Market Association.