Last week we spent a very hot few days in the grounds of one of the countries most beautiful and historic venues, Blenheim Palace. We were there as part of the line up for BBC Countryfile Live, who every year hosts a celebration of the countryside on this stunning Oxford estate.
The organisers of the event bravely asked Peter to host a talk with legendary chef Brian Turner on stage at the Kitchen Theatre. Needless to say, there was a bit of anxiety from Brian when Peter sauntered in carrying a fresh cowpat, dug up from the fields at Pipers Farm HQ. What made it even worse was when Peter began to manoeuvre the cowpat into one of the stage sponsors, Le Creuset's, brand new cast iron pans!
It's become a little bit of a joke around the farm, that Peter never travels without a trusty cowpat, however, there is actually a serious reason behind his latest eccentricity.
"I completely understood Brain's concern, and the last thing I wanted to do was compromise the brand of either Countryfile Live or Le Creuset, who know a thing or two about making a fabulous pan. Interestingly though the point I was trying to make has strong synergy with both brands."
So, here we go with a brief explanation...
"I took a cowpat with me, and a sod of our farm with grass and lots of deep roots in the Red Devon soil.
The cowpat is full of billions of wonderful bacteria because our Red Rubies have such a healthy biome, because their diet is so natural; and the cowpats disappear so fast because the millions of tiny species and billions of microscopic bacteria and fungi in the soil make short work of utilising the vital food offered up from higher up the food chain."
At Pipers Farm we have been championing our mission of farming in harmony with nature for over 30 years. Fundamental to this is not just the farming of our livestock, but the careful balancing of the whole ecosystem thriving in our corner of land in Devon. From the bees who pollinate an array of flora to the bacteria who keep our soil functioning, wildlife who live within our woodland and hedgerows, to the livestock who manage and graze our grassland. Our job is not as simple as rearing livestock, we are custodians of our land and guardians of billions of creatures who rely on a symbiotic relationship.
"Bacteria have been hounded out of our psyche, by legions of clip-board waving food police. In a similar way to the relentless destruction of small, local abattoirs, and family farms. The industrial juggernaut crushes all before it.
Bacteria and biota have been around a lot longer than the human race, and discerning shoppers are starting to understand about the unique biome that we all have and the vital role that it plays in our health. Bacteria are its heart and soul!"
The food chain is fundamentally built on harnessing energy from the sun, combined with water, to create carbon molecules which are the basic building blocks of food.
Nature is amazing and wonderful and at Pipers Farm we believe our job as farmers should be to respect and nourish that incredible resource and grow food sustainably in harmony with nature. These are the fundamental building blocks of growing food the Pipers Farm way, with all our farms producing food based in these simple principals.
So, where’s the synergy between bacteria, bullshit and Countryfile?
"Countryfile is a really exciting incarnation of the old ‘Sunday lunchtime programme for farmers’. Now it is primetime and watched by many millions, and Countryfile Live is a living, working, tangible version of it. We witnessed many thousands of visitors there having a very formative time. The best of it is to see the opportunity being taken to inform children of all ages about the world of rural life and farming.
The average age of farmers is 59, we NEED to inspire and excite a new generation! So I feel it is my mission to shine a light on what is right under our feet, sustaining us all, to hopefully inspire a new generation of farmers to think more carefully about that land they are nurturing."
And what about ‘heavy cast iron pans’?
"Well, a bit like the most basic tool of educating our children, providing healthy, honest sustainable food is another basic building of life. It shouldn’t be complicated, fancy or fashionable, it should stand the test of time, and be passed down through generations. So it is with our approach to farming - timeless common sense, handed down through generations, respectful of the natural world - it has been around many millions of years longer than we have."