This week I was lucky enough to spend an hour or so talking with Jonny from Fen Farm Dairy. Regretfully not in person, having googled the fastest possible route it would still take me about 5 hours from the Shire to Bungay in Suffolk, pah! So, we scheduled a phone call with me sitting at the kitchen table and Jonny standing on a wall at his farm – apparently where the best mobile signal is!
Where it all started:
From a small boy Jonny dreamt of one job and one job only – to be a dairy farmer. Thankfully the stars aligned themselves nicely and that’s exactly what he became, hurrah for us all! Today Jonny, his wife Dulcie and a team of rather wonderful people help make a range of cheese, butter and yogurt in Bugay, Suffolk. Of course being a Dairy Farmer is no mean feat. Tumbling milk prices would ultimately point Jonny on the road to dairy nirvana and unbeknown to him the start of a new life. They soon started to sell their raw milk from the side of the road to locals and passersby, interacting face to face directly with their customers which Jonny really enjoyed.The margin was better, it was an enjoyable experience but still it wasn’t quite enough and that’s when his eureka cheese moment happened.
The journey begins:
Having met and been inspired by various cheese makers and realising there was no brie de meaux equivalent in the UK Jonny felt he had to seize the opportunity and have a go at making it himself. He travelled to France and learnt the art of making brie de meaux from one of the masters. To make a good farmhouse brie he needed the perfect milk. So, with two lorry loads (that’s 72 by the way) of Montbeliard French cow’s shipped back home to Suffolk the cheese making could begin. Other local farmers laughed when the cow’s were spotted grazing in the fields, robust and large they looked more like beef cattle than the typical dairy cows we’re used to seeing. His first attempts at cheese making were fairly disastrous, rock hard, too soft, you name it, it happened! Eventually the perfect cheese was made and Baron Bigod was born.
Not only are the team continuing to make Baron Bigod, but they are also the only producers of raw milk lactic butter. Jonny and Dulcie have two lovely children and together drive the business forwards with their vision firmly intact – to sell to the people they like, they’ll never sell to large supermarkets or the mainstream. Their ethos, to produce the very best cheese, from animals that are well cared for and where the environment is nurtured and protected. Bravo to that!
We will be stocking Baron Bigod early next year so keep a keen eye out, you won’t want to miss this one!