In 1977 we were at a crossroads in our lives. David had had to give up his flying career owing to a serious medical problem and had always wanted to farm since enjoying childhood holidays on a farm in Cornwall.
Our small farm was an idyllic place to bring up a family and live “the good life”, growing our own food, cooking delicious, if somewhat repetitive meals, with what was available.
We had a vegetable patch and a well stocked store cupboard of basics like flour, rice, dried fruit and pasta. A Jersey housecow called Lucky, pigs and chickens, but sometimes supper was delayed if the recipe was complicated, or I had been acting midwife to a sow.
Such beautiful surroundings and good ingredients provided inspiration for a lot of my cooking. I read cookery books like novels and sold pies, pasties and sausage rolls at the local W.I. markets, as they were then called. I offered to supply a local shop and Simple Suppers grew from there. My husband calls it a hobby gone mad. The butchery and curing of pigs soon joined the cooking at our premises in Chipping Campden. The decision to change the name to The Cotswold Farmer was a difficult one, as Simple Suppers had been my baby, but it reflects more accurately the core and provenance of the business at the same time giving the packaging a contemporary look.
It is easy to forget how much research and trial and error went into developing the products in the early days. Finding the right flour for the pastry, with a little gluten but not too much, in order to make the pastry robust enough get to its destination undamaged, but not so much gluten that it became tough. Getting the balance of herbs right in our sausages, and coming up with new products to win awards and keep the interest alive as food fashions changed. Even choosing the correct equipment, and upscaling everything from the domestic scale I was used to. I cooked through the night and went without holidays. Fortunately now I don’t need to do either, as I have such a good team.
We were first generation farmers and were left to make our own mistakes without interference. The second generation are now firmly in charge and we try not to say “In my day” or “We used to do it like…” Living on a farm the whole family helps and the needs of the animals must come first even on Christmas Day. The business is always there outside the back door. It can sometimes be difficult to switch off, because home is integral with the business.