Diversification in farming is an ever-growing industry, we are seeing arable plots being turned into anything from wedding venues to vineyards across the UK. However, it’s never an easy conversation, especially with the age-old stubborn attitude of ‘we’ve always done it this way, so why change?’ Nine times out of ten, when a farm does take the plunge into diversification, the pay-off is not only financially rewarding, but it gives the farmers a new fervour for life. One such farm, where after a few years of changes, has been taken on by the next generation is now reaping the rewards of diversification. Schöffel visited West Country Premium Venison in May, to see how they are approaching venison and sheep farming with a refreshing point of view.
“The farm has been in my family since 1703,” says Pip Smith, owner of West Country Premium Venison. “Around seven years ago, I came back from New Zealand with my husband Matt and wanted to add value to our produce and be able to tell customers about our story and the provenance and high-welfare standards we adhere to.”
“We decided to go down the venison route in 2015,” says Matt. “We went to buy around 46 and came back with around 400.” This launch into the world of venison farming was not without its challenges. We had to erect thousands of meters of deer fencing and infrastructure, thankfully we had help from the family from New Zealand, and a good mentor in the UK to help guide us.
“In 2020 we made the decision to build on-farm processing facilities to improve animal welfare and add value,” says Matt. “We only supply hospitality and individuals now. It has allowed us to take full control of the whole process, from farm to fork and we no longer incur haulage costs.”
What really stood out on Pip and Matt’s farm was the forward-thinking approach when it came to the design of everything. From the gateways to the shearing sheds and deer handling shed, it has been built with safety at the forefront for family and staff shortly followed by ease of use and finally, durability. It is the result of a couple who have been fortunate enough to travel the world and bring back and importantly apply their findings to this beautiful spot in the Cornish countryside.
People love West Country Premium Venison, being a farm they can legally supply fresh meat all year round. Venison is such a healthy meat, high in protein, great source of iron, brimming with zinc with an array of essential vitamins.
West Country Premium Venison supply a number of chefs including Monica Galetti, who you may know from Masterchef. The venison sits proudly on her menu at Mere in London.
The story behind this farm is first class, it's no wonder to see it is premium meat when it's being produced and sustainably farmed in premium ways.
Quickfire Questions with Pip & Matt
Venison or lamb?
Favourite venison dish?
Pip: Ossobuco, cooked well it just literally melts in your mouth
Matt: Venison Tartare
How do you have your steak?
Piece of equipment you couldn’t live without?
Matt: Shearing Handpiece
Best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
Pip: Surround yourself with like-minded people
Matt: Never be too proud to learn
Advice you have for someone who is trying to encourage diversification/change on their family farm?
Pip: My advice would be to get good professionals to help you do cash flows and also have a really good plan behind you. Make the goals realistic without putting yourself under too much pressure.
Matt: Keep both sides in perspectives and if believe in something show it can work.