I started working at Kite’s Nest Farm, near Broadway, Worcestershire in June, 2020. The farm is a partnership of brother and sister Rosamund and Richard Young and Rosamund’s partner Gareth. They have been certified Organic for the best part of 40 years and were the inspiration behind Prince Charles’ move to becoming Organic and they sowed the seed for Knepp Castle’s Wilding Project. Rosamund is the author of The Secret Life of Cows and Richard helped to develop the Sustainable Food Trust alongside Patrick Holden while Gareth is a remarkable Cabinet Maker. Could I be in better hands? What a bunch to be learning from. I felt like the Cat that had Got the Cream.
I was there to work and to learn and to help out while Rosamund was recovering from a leg injury. Naively, I assumed that my learning was going to be all about driving tractors, reversing trailers, hay making, JCB tooting and improving on my skills with stock. Isn’t that what a job is about? Learning the ropes? Improving the skills? Bettering oneself professionally? Being told off for silly blunders?
Little did I know that I would accumulate all of these skills in a very natural and gentle way, without being berated for being too slow or for making a mess of the lawn or for taking 2 or 3 goes to get something right and nearly taking a barn down in the process. However, the overall lesson was not to be one about how to work, but how to live.
Rosamund, Richard and Gareth are full of joy. They tell jokes about Shakespeare, recite poetry, Rosamund makes bread with joy, the animals are treated as individual characters, with their character traits being admired, even if they are not always liked. They look at the landscape, they study the birds, the caterpillars, the moths, the water. They appreciate the tradition of hay making, they take their time. Everything is savoured and enjoyed and done with humour and work is a privilege. Judgements are not made. The farm is a way to live. Every moment is sheer joy.
If you want to wear two pairs of trousers because it’s warmer then so what? Or a brace of hats? Or if you want to sit in the wood and count the species and admire the deer then why on earth should you not? What’s the rush? Life here is to be enjoyed and drunk up slowly, not greedily. Principles are stuck to, as are traditions; from which cherry trees are picked first to how the apples are stored and the potatoes dug, the farm is guided by the seasons. Every moment is a delight.
While this can mean that ‘efficiencies’ and ‘numbers’ and ‘weekends’ and ‘productivity’ are regarded in a different way – so what? It strikes me that they have unlocked the key to life. To live as you wish, to live above and beyond the reproach of politics and society. To live and to work and for the two to be so inextricably linked that there is no end and no beginning to these odd constructs we, outside of the world of Kites Nest Farm, are subject to. And so it was, here at Kites Nest, that I felt truly inspired and truly happy.
Over time, I became far more aware and, naturally, connected to the process of life and death and the cyclicality of the farm. I’d fight tears as animals were sent to slaughter and watch as Gareth would say farewell to his ‘good friends’ and Rosamund would make sure that they were comfortable, with enough space and had been loaded as calmly as possible. It’s heartbreaking, and confusing and yet, I know, that the meat which will come back to the farm in a matter of weeks, is the best meat I’ve ever had.
Animal welfare takes on a whole new being at Kites Nest as all of the stock live and remain in their family groups. That means mothers, daughters, cousins, aunts, second-cousins twice removed, brothers, half siblings all milling around together, having a chat at the water trough, talking about the grass, the sky, hatching a plan to break out into the next field where The Grass is Always Greener. Rosamund even takes time to make sure that Dandelion (a Hebridean Sheep) can visit her son, Master Dandelion (un-castrated), who lives on the other side of the farm.
Customers at Kites Nest are loyal. Many of them were once vegetarians and buy their meat because of the way in which the animals are looked after and because of the love and respect the animals are shown. Of course, this is very much a la mode, and of course, Kites Nest has been ahead of it’s time. Most of the clients are all good cooks – they appreciate Nose to Tail Butchery and get the point of Tongue or Liver or Kidneys and also don’t mind a Sirloin steak or two too.
Yet, what struck me was this business of Waste and Waste products. How can we go to all of this trouble to produce The Best meat, the highest quality, butchered beautifully and then to have a great stock of it go to waste, just because We, contemporary society, no longer see certain items as being valuable.
My mind started to whirr. If a farm is not just a place to work, but a place to live, what else can be garnered from the land? It’s not just meat, what else? Wool? Yes.. (why is this market not supported? To be addressed at another time…), Milling flour? Wood ash? Clean water? Herbal medicine? Why can’t farms be self-supporting systems as they once were? Again, luckily this is very much a la mode, but it struck me that a farm is not just a meat production factory but a complete system which a multitude of revenue streams, of possibilities, of health benefits, of environmental benefits.
Beef fat, or tallow. Yes. That’s it. Another waste product which is considered perhaps too greedy, perhaps not healthy, perhaps… I don’t know what..not nice?. Yet tallow has made up the very fabric of our society for hundreds of years. It is a natural by-product. Why aren’t we using it more? Especially when the animal has been farmed in the right way and in the way which supports the environment.
To preach (and I’ll keep it brief as no one likes to be preached at) tallow has huge medicinal benefits; rich in nutrients – not only does it help you absorb more nutrients from your food, but tallow is also rich in vitamins A, D, E, K, and B1. It reduces inflammation – tallow contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is a natural anti-inflammatory. It posseses fantastic antimicrobial properties which help ward off infections. It helps burn body fat by releasing glucagon, it softens the skin, supports the nervous system, protects from attacks from free radicals. I won’t go on, but I could.
Bingo. So that’s the thing. Tallow. I’d much rather use tallow from a local farm, with the right ethics, values and welfare standards, supporting the environment, getting the medicinal benefits and putting profits back into this system than importing coconut oil, palm oil, or any other non-UK based oil. I like traditional values, traditional products and I want to support the English Countryside, The Environment, encourage biodiversity, support farming and to get the very best and most out of our friends on the farm.
I firmly believe that using tallow as a skincare ingredient, if it has been farmed in the right way, helps to support the environment, use up waste products, carries health benefits, is low mileage and respects tradition.