Cattle happily wander through lush clover-rich fields, ducks and chickens flap and feed in the fresh air and a bounty of wild flowers gently stir in the breeze.
This sort of idyllic countryside scene might have seen a decline over decades but some farmers and food producers are trying to keep the best of the British countryside thriving.
Among them is Hyden Farm in Clanfield, a 300-acre site which is small compared to the industry’s big hitters. But the meat and poultry business is big on principles, says owner Richard Jones.
‘We don’t use any pesticides or artificial fertilisers and because of that, grass doesn’t squeeze out natural herbage. Everything gets a better chance so we have wild flowers and all sort of herbs.’
It’s this sort of scene that people are being invited to visit during July’s Hampshire Food Festival – a celebration of the county’s food, crafts and farming. The aim of the festival is to encourage people to think about where their food comes from and persuade them to support independent local producers, who are invaluable to the local rural economy.
The food and craft producers taking part in the event offer a more personal service, use other local businesses and tend to produce and craft their wares on a smaller scale. But they are up against commercial giants like supermarkets and large brands.
‘That means we need to specialise and definitely need the support of people who are concerned about their food and where it has come from,’ says Richard.
‘I think people should buy local, whether its from their butcher, electrician or plumber. It’s this sort of infrastructure of the locality that is so important to its vibrancy.’
During the festival he’ll be taking visitors on a tour of Hyden Farm, where the animals wander on free range pastures and wild flowers, so important to the eco-system and generally in decline, are allowed to flourish.
‘I don’t just do it for the environment, I like to look at them,’ he says.
He’ll talk to visitors about animal welfare, farming without pesticides and artificial fertilisers which allows natural herbs to compete with grass and, Richard says, improves the flavour and quality of the meat.
Other events in the festival include vineyard and orchard tours, beers and wine tasting, chocolate-making and cookery demonstrations and workshops.
Now in its 12th year the festival has grown from a weekend event in Winchester to a county-wide, month-long programme. Last year it attracted more than 221,000 visitors.
‘Local food has become huge over the last 10 or so years and I think we’ve now gone beyond it being a fashion,’ says festival organiser Sophie Boxall. ‘To a lot of people it’s really important to have traceability. They want to be able to talk to producers and find out more about what they’re eating.’
But she says the festival isn’t just about promotion and encouraging people to buy and eat local.
‘We have lots of fun events and activities that are great for families. We want to give people the excuse to get out and enjoy the countryside. So much of Hampshire is rural and we have great food and crafts in the county.’
The festival is organised by county food group Hampshire Fare, backed by Hampshire County Council and sponsored by several organisations.
Hampshire Fare is a not-for-profit membership organisation representing the interests of about 200 producers, craftspeople, restaurants and shops.
‘Working together, local food, drink and craft businesses have a bigger voice than they do individually,’ explains Sophie.
She says members are extremely important to the local economy as they employ people and keep money coming into the county.
In Clanfield, Richard is looking forward to welcoming people during the festival and showing them the animals born, bred and reared on the farm.
On this family-run farm, visitors will find Longhorn cattle, Hampshire Down Sheep, Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs plus lots of poultry.
Richard says: ‘It gives people a better understanding of what we do. And it’s all very well to say we keep rare animals, and we keep them outside and give them basic wholesome food, but it’s better to invite people along and prove that to them. The only way to prove how it effects the product is to let them try it.’
There will be the opportunity to have a tour of Hyden Farm or a tour followed by a three-course lunch, featuring Richard’s produce, at Fat Olives in Emsworth.
The tour and lunch are planned for Saturday, July 14, and costs £25. The tour will cost £5.
Visit or order the Hampshire Food Festival programme or call (01243) 377914 or (023) 9263 2683 (for farm tour only).
More than 70 events will be held across the county during Hampshire Food Festival.
These include local food-themed festival menus and celebration dinners, jam-making workshops, barbecues, an ox roast and barn dance, vegetable carving workshops, an orchard walk and juice tasting, maize maze, an amateur chef competition, bakery and fish filleting demos, food and farm festivals, farmers’ markets and more.
Many events, which are held at different locations across Hampshire, are free or low-cost.
The festival runs from July 1-31. Details of all events are at hampshirefare.co.uk/foodfestival
· You can also pick up a free copy of the programme at farmers’ markets, independent food shops, hotels, restaurants, pubs, information centres and attractions across Hampshire or call (01962) 846509 for a copy to be posted to you.
You don’t need to head for the Med for the aromatic experience of lavender fields.
More often found in warmer climes, the herb is also being grown in Hampshire.
Lavender Fields is part of Hartley Park Farm, near Alton. The heady herb is grown here and made into products, including fragrances and food.
‘People think it’s going to taste like perfume or soap, but actually it has a gingery, coconut, flavour and works really well in biscuits, cakes and jams,’ says Sue Sharland, farm shop manager.
She says people are often surprised to find out lavender is being grown so close to home.
As part of Hampshire Food Festival, the farm is inviting people to find out more about the growing and harvesting of the crop. There are open days on June 29 and 30 and July 7 and 8. Visitors can look forward to tractor rides, cream teas and the chance to browse and buy food and gifts. The events, which run from 11am to 4pm, cost £3 for adults and are free for children under 12. Check the festival site (see main piece) or visit thelavenderfields.co.uk
Imagine supping your ale overlooking the fields of malting barley that helped produce that pint.
Hampshire Food Festival is offering an event for anyone who loves beer and likes to know the source of ingredients in their food and drink.
Southwick Brewhouse is running tasting sessions of beers from all over the county. But you can also try their own Suthwyk Ales, made from the barley being grown nearby on the slopes of Portsdown Hill.
‘It’s a great area for growing barley because it likes that chalkiness, ‘ says Martin Bazeley, who farms the crop and runs Suthwyk Ales.
The tasting sessions underpin the spirit of the festival – encouraging people to find out more about local food and drink and how it is produced.
‘It’s all about traceability of ingredients,’ says Martin. ‘People find that very important now, so the festival events are a great opportunity.’
Martin runs Southwick Brewhouse with beer buff Al Stringer. Al’s expertise comes from travelling all over the country and sampling different brews.
‘You could say to him “I was in Doncaster and tried this” and he could probably tell you about it. He is very knowledgable,’ says Martin.
Southwick Brewhouse was once fully operational. It is now a museum and visitors can still see traditional beer-making equipment. Suthwyk Ales, made from Martin’s barley and ideas and contracted to Oakleaf Brewing in Gosport, are sold from the shop, as well as many other brews.
The Celebration of Hampshire brewing event runs from Wednesday to Saturday (10am to 5pm) and Sunday (11am to 4pm) throughout the festival. Visit the festival programme or southwickbrewhouse.co.uk