Profile of top UK organic farm

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When Carole Bamford first mentioned farming her 4,000 acres organically, her husband was not convinced. Today he cures his animals homeopathically - and her Daylesford brand has grown into the country's classiest food empire.

Born Carole Whitt in Nottingham, she grew up in a male-heavy family: aside from her mother, there was her father, brother, uncle and grandfather. "You did a lot of bargaining back then; you used to get hares with the skin attached, or an old cockerel. Selecting foodstuff was enjoyable. I'm not a good chef, but I'm a good English family cook. I guess I simply learned by osmosis."

Daylesford, her 1,600-hectare organic property near Chipping Norton, possesses flocks of pure bred sheep waft around Gainsborough-like parkland; smooth black cattle lay down in quality hay. At the heart of it all is the estate store, a series of renovated limestone barns retailing remarkably wrapped cheese.

Daylesford is the cathedral of extravagent taste, and Lady Bamford is their leader. People who choose to shop here include the Prime Minister and his wife; Viscount Linley, chairman of Christie's auction home, who rents a property on the estate; and the many actors and celebrities who have inhabited these grey-green hills west of Oxford. There are two further shops in London, and a concession in Selfridges.

For all the cashmere and style, it's simple to skip her fundamental intent, which is to cultivate top quality, nutritious food minimizing risk to the earth. She is following the same theme as the slow-food initiative and the lentils-and-sandals brigade-- only hers originates from Prada.

These days, a glorious fall sunset is radiating over the estate, bathing it all in a radiant, golden shine. She doesn't ordinarily give interviews, yet she is enthusiastic about food, and has taken the opportunity to discuss the importance of protecting the earth.

En route, we speak about the roots of her passion for cuisine. "I grew up in the 1950s, and food was rather scarce," she says. She is 67, nevertheless resembles a lady at the wheel of her huge car, a symphony of cream leather. "During those times," she proceeds, "an avocado was rather peculiar. My mother perpetually cooked for 4 lads, so she always had a stew on the go, a brisket of pork or something, along with dumplings."