Richard Mortimore is the fourth generation to farm at Corndon on the edge of Meldon above Chagford.
This 39ha hill farm has seen little change over those years. Harsh, wet Dartmoor winters and a large acreage of moorland grazing dictates only native breeds of sheep and cattle flourish in this environment.
These breeds might be slower maturing than their Continental peers but the taste and quality of the finished product continues to gain favour in fashionable restaurants and pubs across the country.
Richard (32) and his partner Tiggy Fuller (35) have therefore decided to cut out the middle man, reduce cost to the consumer, and sell their beef and lamb straight off the farm.
Dartmoor Beef and Lamb was launched last month with the result they sold out of beef within 36 hours.
“These were all local orders through facebook,” says Tiggy. “Even though we knew the beef was delicious and cooked really well it was still quite daunting to start with but we have had lots of repeat orders since so that is a great sign.”
Traditionally Galloways have been the mainstay of the 50-head suckler herd at Corndon. Richard and Tiggy, however, are slowly increasing the number of Luings in the herd.
“We really like this breed. The cows are obviously hardy as they originate from the Inner Hebrides so do very well on Dartmoor,” explains Richard. “And unlike some native breeds they are consistently fertile so successfully rear a calf every year. “Their meat is also very well marbled which is what it is all about – they provide top quality beef off grass. More importantly, as far as Tiggy is concerned, they are a lovely roan colour!”
It takes three years before these cattle are ready to go from farm to plate. In that time, they spend two summers on Woodbury Common as part of a RSPB environmental scheme where their grazing habits are utilized to improve the birds’ habitats. Thereafter they travel the short distance to the local abattoir at Ottery St Mary where the meat is hung in a chiller for a month. Lambs are also sent here.
“We are really pleased with the service Richard Coles provides for us at East Hill Pride,” says Tiggy. “The packaging and labelling of the finished product is very professional which then allows us to sell it with great confidence. We are also able to ask Richard to cut the meat to any specific orders and to a range of weights which means we can provide anything from a pack of mince to a variety of meat boxes.”
Richard and Tiggy also run 400 hill ewes. Again, these are native breeds such as South Country Cheviot, Scotch Blackface and Swaledale. They rent a further 81ha of grassland to sustain both the cattle and sheep enterprises and ensure stock has plenty of fresh grazing in front of it.
All this ground is farmed in environmental stewardship agreements. Richard and Tiggy are focused on farming in a sustainable fashion which ensures their livestock complement the landscape they farm within.
Three years ago Richard was selected by The Prince’s Countryside Fund to be part of its Farm Resilience Programme. “I was very lucky to be part of this project. It offered really useful training courses which focused on different business skills to maximize business profitability and resilience,” explains Richard. “And I have also learnt a great deal about marketing meat when helping Richard Vine sell his Wild Beef in London at Borough Market. It is amazing how much people in London are prepared to pay for their meat. I can guarantee we don’t charge anywhere near London prices so our customers are getting real value for their money. The only added value in Dartmoor Beef and Lamb is the quality of the product on their plate.”