Life on the farm with Cheverton’s Andrew HodgsonSeptember 5th 2023
With just a few days to go before the first Great Wight Bite, we caught up with Cheverton Farm’s Andrew Hodgson on how the family business has evolved, the challenges in the family industry and what makes his meat a cut above.
How long has the farm been in the family? We moved from Sussex to Cheverton Farm in 1986, I farmed with my father, then in 1912 took it over and have run it in partnership with my wife, Claudia, 5 years ago my son Jack joined us. However, three previous generations had farmed at Wolverton Farm in Shorwell so, in total 6 generations in the village.
The farm has diversified over the last few years, what challenges has this created? Even since I took over in 1992, we have always been a diversified farm, we have holiday cottages, a commercial game shoot, even a mountain bike track, in addition, we also rent four other farms across the Island growing crops.
Our diversification into direct marketing of our livestock through our on farm butchery and farm shop started in 2019. The main challenge is to accept that, as a farmer I am principally a primary producer of food. All the diversification, whilst cantered or around the farm, requires a broad skill set that relies on good staff.
How important is it for farmers to diversify? For today’s farmers it is essential.
Tell us about your livestock….what makes them special? We have always focused in producing high quality animals that are consistent and suitable for the market that are serving. We have always had high welfare standards and been transparent in our production methods.
We grow as much feed as we can on our farm, not only the grass that they eat, but also our arable crops are utilised in the rations fed. I do not have any special breed. I believe that it is more important to have good quality animals and manage them in a way to maximise their potential to produce top quality meat for our butchery.
What makes your meat / farm different from others? Our advantage is that we have most of the ‘links in the chain’. We rear our animals (sheep, beef and pigs) on our own farm, growing much of the feed ourselves.
We select the animals once a fortnight all year round to ensure we always have meat available for our customers. Once slaughtered, the carcasses go into our modern, on farm butchery. We then hang the carcasses in our dry aging fridges to maximise the potential of the meat.
The time it is hung depends on the animal and cut, for example, lambs are hung for 14 days, ribs of beef for a minimum of 40 days. Some cuts are then stored in an aging fridge which has a wall of Himalayan rock salt to ensure the meat ages in an environment that intensifies the flavour. Our butchers than cut the meat, accessing each carcass before it is butchered, to get the best from it.
What should people be looking out for when buying quality meat? Trust in their supplier. We do the work to ensure that the animal welfare is of a high standard, the rearing methods are ethical and environmentally sustainable, backed by farm assurance. Our butchers use their experience and skill understand what each customer wants, this enables them to then butcher the meat correctly for each customer.
You’ve recently rebranded, what was the reason behind that? Our branding was originally designed to promote the Isle of Wight as a fantastic regional food producer. However, we realised that this was not showing the strong link between the production at Cheverton Farm, the butchery at the Isle of Wight Meat Co and the retailing at the Isle of Wight Farm Shop.
I believe that people like to know which farm the meat actually comes from. This is why we recently re branded to ‘Cheverton Farm, a taste of the Isle of Wight’.
What are the challenges facing farmers today? This is a very big question! The usual answer is the difficulties of things beyond our control, such as the weather, global politics, etc. National government policy worries me. We are being asked to choose between food production or the environment, and crowd pleasing policies are being implemented without full consideration of the impact.
Land is coming out of production and turned over to environmental schemes. I am not opposed to these schemes, however, the food that this land previously produced is now being produced somewhere else in the world, can we be certain that this food is now being produced in a way that is better for the environment?
I am convinced that this does not need to be a choice. We can produce food in an environmentally friendly way here, where its needed, whilst enhancing and protecting the environment. We can do both, this is what we do at Cheverton Farm!
Cheverton Farm are the headline sponsors of the first Great Wight Bite. Sample their award-winning produce at The Garden food stand on the house lawns, they will be running a butchery masterclass each day at 12noon and Andrew will be joining Saturday’s panel debate with Hugh and Chris.
They’ll also have a retail shop where you can buy from a range of meat and deli products to take home. For more visit the Cheverton Farm shop here