Pipers Farm – Beyond the Hedgerow Tour by Lauren Heath

I’m sure lots of people know about Pipers Farm (and if you don’t, even more reason to read on); the award winning farm whose philosophy is to grow healthy animals with a strong natural immunity. They grow contented animals slowly, in small groups, with minimum stress, which means that they only use medication when it is absolutely necessary. They believe this is the best way to produce meat which is wholesome and healthy.

Peter and Henri have had the farm just north of Exeter for 25 years and have a lovely small but perfectly formed shop in Magdalen Road as well as an online shop. They attend many food fairs including the fabulous and local Exeter Food and Drink Festival, showcasing their produce as well as the technique of cooking it.

We were sitting in one of the lovely cafes in Magdalen road last year discussing the Harvest tour we had seen advertised and the owner overheard us and told us that she had been on it and how wonderful it was. Well, that made our mind up, so we booked.

This particular event was now 6 months ago but is still very fresh in my mind. Why I am writing about it now? Well this year’s dates have been released and the April one is already fully booked. I will tell you now – get booking!

It was August time and it had been a bit damp but thankfully it held off on this particular evening.  We pulled into the farm and headed towards a green bank where other people had gathered.  We were delighted to be greeted with warm, smiling faces, a glass of elderflower fizz, and some hot sausages that had just come off the fire that was there…good start! We were right by the beautiful Saddleback pigs in their mini orchard, snuffling around (I do love pigs!) so were immediately excited for the tour.

The evening, which starts at 6, involves a walk around the farm (take good walking shoes or wellies) with Peter himself leading the group and telling you all about their journey, methods and his beloved animals. Yes you can love animals and eat meat too – I do. The difference is about doing things the right way, in the rearing, butchery, cooking and eating.  James had recently started with the farm, and he has added a new dimension by integrating ecology and the natural world to make sure their farms are as healthy and as diverse as possible.

There are plenty of opportunities for asking questions. We got to stroke some huge Ruby Red cows, see his beloved dog Fly round up some of the grass-fed lambs and there’s even a tractor ride for those who are less able or for children, making this tour accessible to all.

Then back to the start of the farm where we were seated al-fresco under a sheltered courtyard, fire pit going, bales of hay for seating and good company. The food was delicious, the meat all of their own of course, the salad flowers picked nearby and the pudding was from a very local supplier. I could have sat there all night.

It was an educational and enlightening evening led by such a passionate farmer and businessman, and the fact that the food was delicious goes without saying. For risk of repeating myself – get booking!

Tickets are priced at £20 per person and includes: 1 hour farm tour, three course fire pit supper, soft drinks and a donation to Farms For City Children.

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