Diversity award harvest for West Suffolk’s farms

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POSH pigs, portable offices and a rural business centre have won West Suffolk farmers diversification Oscars.

The praise came in the Suffolk Agricultural Association and Ashton Graham Solicitors’ latest Best Alternative Land Enterprise (BALE) awards, which are open to East Anglian farmers.

First prize went out of Suffolk to John Carrick of Castle Farm, Swanton Morley, Norfolk, for his Victorian barn events venue.

Second prize went to Mark Black for Portable Space at Bacton. He explained: “We sell and hire standard shipping containers for storage, but we also convert them, putting in windows and lining them. But shipping containers come in a standard 8ft width and some people need more, so we also do bespoke built buildings.”

Portable space is a subsidiary of David Black and Son, a fourth generation family pig and arable farm business.

Pigs helped Jason and Katherine Salisbury’s Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses in Creeting St Mary get the BALE Best Green Practice Award for their holistic approach to farming.

In making their Suffolk Gold and Suffolk Blue cheeses, the couple had previously kept the whey, what is left of milk after cheese solids are removed, in a lagoon before spreading it on the land. Now it is fed to free range rare breed pigs to produce top quality pork.

Jason said: “We sell it at farmers’ markets and in our farm shop. It’s a very creamy style meat — Parma ham is from whey-fed pork.

“That’s the thing that tips the balance. We’re feeding them for nothing where there was a cost in spreading it on the land.”

The award also recognised how they grow their own cattle feed to reduce the amount of GM soya fed to the pedigree Guernseys. Finally, instead of male calves being killed at birth, the Salisburys now rear them to 18 to 24 months to produce what they call ‘rosé young beef’, because it is too old to be veal.

A Certificate of Merit went to Clive and Sally Last, who created Rickinghall Business Centre from old and new buildings on their 100-acre farm in 1987. Clive said it now houses 20 businesses employing about 60.