This year has been a dream for farmers. The summer delivered non-stop sunshine perfect for fattening cattle, with no interruption in building stores of good healthy grass to turn into silage for winter feeding.

Many of you have probably heard the old wives tales from farmers across the land predicting our forthcoming weather ‘rain before seven, dry by eleven’ and so on. This year, one thing our farmers hadn’t predicted was a mast year.

The term ‘mast’ comes from the Old English word ‘maest’ meaning the accumulation of nuts on the ground. Historically these were the main diet for domestic pigs. The pigs would roam underneath the heavy-laden trees helping themselves to wild fruit and nuts. This traditional way of feeding pigs only what nature provides is exactly what we continue to do here at Pipers Farm.

In theory, the mast happens every five to seven years, a way for the old oak trees to ensure the survival of their species. If the nuts are in short supply they are hoovered up by a variety of woodland creatures, making it hard for the old oaks to guarantee the next generation of young trees. By storing their energy and producing a vast crop, hoping to generate more food than any squirrel or bird could hope to consume, they are banking on having nuts left over to go to ground.

Historically the mast only referred to nuts, usually acorn or beechnuts, however, it seems wild fruits are taking their lead from the trees this year and have also grown in abundance, the hedgerows are packed full of red and purple berries. It’s not just nutty trees and hedgerows that are full to the rafters, the apple crop in our orchard is plentiful. We grow a mix of Bramleys, Sweet Alfred, Spartans and Discoveries.

The wild harvest this year is incredible and so valuable to us as farmers. Not only the gentle wildlife that make their home here at the Pipers Farm fed are in great health, but our pigs are enjoying some of the best food we can offer them.

Our Saddlebacks home is in the Cider Orchards. Here they graze grass in spring and summer, windfall, apples towards the end of the season and acorns in the autumn through to late winter. This year our pigs are scoffing plentiful grass, apples and acorns all at once. All of this good natural food is sure to develop a really traditional rich, sweet meat and a depth of flavourthat our pork has become famous for. It’s an exciting time.

We passionately believe in working with nature, farming the way it has been done for generations, learning the ups and downs of the seasons and working in harmony. As in life, farming has its lot of good times and bad times. We’ve suffered through chaotic snow only two years ago and last year the floods that just deluged with endless enthusiasm. It’s been tough, but a good summer and rich autumn make it all worthwhile.

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