Geoff Sayers of The Well Hung Meat Company in Devon
"I think we all have a duty to step as lightly and kindly on the planet as we possibly can. Farmers also have a responsibility to provide the best, mineral and vitamin rich nutrition they can. Organic principles are a good place to start."
The Well Hung Meat Company started life on Carswell Farm in South Devon. Geoff entered the meat from his farm into the Soil Association Organic Food Awards in 2001 and 2002, winning both times and inspiring him to start the company. Well Hung Meat was endorsed as one of Rick Stein's Food Heroes and has won numerous awards since. The company prides itself on quality and convenience.
Can you give a short history of how you got to where you are now, including why and when you 'went organic'?
I was born to farming parents and have always been passionate about farming and nature. I studied Agriculture and Economics and then went into banking, mostly in Hong Kong and Thailand. I returned to run the family farm in 1998 (with a few 'unconventional' ideas about business and farming) and started the organic conversion process immediately. I founded The Well Hung Meat Company to try to reduce some of the 'natural' but unnecessary waste in dairy farming and to give our carefully husbanded sheep a chance to be processed properly. It shocked me that our lambs were not hung at all before going onto shop shelves so I decided to take action.
Organic principles – why do they matter?
I think we all have a duty to step as lightly and kindly on the planet as we possibly can. Farmers also have a responsibility to provide the best, mineral and vitamin rich nutrition they can. Organic principles are a good place to start.
What does the Soil Association mean to you?
It provides a reliable barometer for farming and food.
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
Every day is different and very often unpredictable – I like it that way! Too much time at a desk for my liking though.
Who are your customers and where are they?
All sorts of people (mostly meat eaters) who enjoy good food – from all over the UK.
What is your greatest achievement?
Being brave enough to leave city life and take up farming as I didn't really feel I knew enough at the time.
What do you find most frustrating about what you do?
Dealing with bureaucracy.
What's the main benefit of being organic for you?
My dairy farm would not be functioning today if I hadn't gone organic. Oh and the glow worms that we see. They wouldn’t exist if we used pesticides.
How can the organic market be improved?
Keep giving people the message that organic farming is green farming and provides the most nutritious produce. This is particularly important with the economy struggling as cheap is not always good. Push the grass fed message harder: everyone needs to know the difference in quality, health benefits and carbon footprint between grass fed and intensively reared meat and milk. Also the Soil Association must do its bit to lobby people and our Government that the practices of big agribusiness, big pharma (pharmaceutical industry) and big supermarkets are not always in our best interests.
What other organic ventures do you admire and why?
Yeo Valley - because they made it big and are still a family organisation. John Sherrell, my neighbouring farmer, because he does what he believes in and keeps it local.
Supermarkets – good or bad?
These days it is safest that I talk to my therapist about the way I feel about supermarkets!
What's the best thing about organic food?
The taste and the knowledge that there are no hidden nasties.
How do you plan to progress in the future? What is your vision?
My dream is that all the food I produce and process will be available for and enjoyed by people in my local community without having to go via Newcastle to be processed or packaged or have folic acid added to it! I also hope the people in Newcastle will be able to enjoy their local produce too of course!
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Nature! Seeing miracles every day: a calf being born or even watching grass grow.
If I was Prime Minister I would...
Mix blue with green a bit more.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Value everyone's opinions but listen to your gut.
When were you happiest?
Seeing my children develop new skills yesterday.
What is your greatest fear?
What is your favourite word?
What would be your 'Desert Island' luxury?
LW Radio to listen to cricket.
What is your favourite meal?
A fresh, complimentary, lovingly prepared and perfectly cooked surprise – with good meat... obviously!
What keeps you awake at night?
My 3 year old who creeps into bed with me every night!
Any unusual hobbies or past careers?
None are particularly unusual – I’m passionate about cricket and I try to do at least a little bit of yoga regularly – it sets me up for the day.
What single thing would most improve your life?
A Government that valued food and farming.
I'd like to be remembered for...
To find out more about The Well Hung Meat Company visit www.wellhungmeat.com