MP visits "Sussex Farmer of the Year" in Cowfold
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert visited Andrew and Joanne Knowles at Trenchmore Farm in Cowfold on Saturday (28 January), just a few days before they received a top prize at the Sussex Food & Drink Awards.
Andrew and Joanne are relatively new ‘second career’ farmers. Trenchmore Farm was started in 2012, and their youngest son Oscar joined them in 2015 to manage the farm day-to-day.
On Wednesday night (1 February) they collected the ‘Sussex Farmer of the Year’ award at an event hosted at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.
The Knowles are cross breeding Sussex cattle with Wagyu cattle with the ambition of producing the best tasting local beef from a healthy and happy herd. The cattle are mostly grass fed, but also feed on local brewer’s grains.
Andrew describes the farm as a ‘show and tell’ farm, a place where chefs and buyers can visit the cattle and see first-hand the lifecycle and wellbeing of the herd. Trenchmore beef is sold to many leading Sussex restaurants.
Mr Herbert toured the farm with Andrew and Joanne. The cattle are housed in a Roundhouse Barn in the winter, a revolutionary style building which is more efficient to run than traditional barns. By investing into the farm’s infrastructure the Knowles are able to improve the welfare of their stock and reduce labour input.
Trenchmore Farm also has an orchard of 1,600 traditional cider apple trees. Silly Moo cider is pressed and fermented on site. In 2016 the farm took in more than 12 tonnes of surplus apples from Sussex gardens in an annual apple swap. Apple growers can exchange their surplus apples for cider.
After the tour Mr Herbert, Andrew and Joanne discussed some of the wider concerns of modern farming and sustainability, and how to raise the profile of South Downs produce so that buyers can identify locally made food and drink.
Mr Herbert has championed the idea of marketing local produce under a South Downs banner to help boost local businesses and tourism. An example of this has proved successful in Kent with ‘Produced in Kent’, a not-for-profit collaboration between the County Council and Hadlow College.
Andrew Knowles said: "It was good to meet Nick who comes from a farming background and really appreciates the challenges of modern farming. Improving our Wealden Clay soils and building up our herd of Sussex X Red Wagyu cattle takes years and creating a clear National Framework will allow Farmers to plan for the future. Having the opportunity to talk to Nick about ways to broaden the focus to include sustainability alongside the commercial pressures was very welcome."
Nick Herbert said: “I always enjoy farm visits and it was a particular pleasure to meet Andrew, Joanne and Oscar. I am delighted that Trenchmore Farm won Sussex Farmer of the Year, an accolade which is clearly highly deserved.”
1. Photo: Andrew Knowles, Joanne Knowles and Nick Herbert MP in front of the Roundhouse barn at Trenchmore Farm.
2. For more information about Trenchmore Farm see www.trenchmore.co.uk.