1. What is it you do in food?
Produce high quality, high nutritional value meat including charcuterie (to organically and pasture-for-life certified standards), directly from the farm through the on-farm butchery to our community of customers – and sharing, guiding this experience with family and a small team of staff
2. What does good food mean to you?
‘Good’ food can only ever be ‘good, clean and fair’ and second only to love is a joy which is an inalienable right
3. What other women have influenced you in food?
My mother Hilary has been (and continues to be), my primary inspiration and also influencer on food in my life. She herself was heavily influenced post-war, by a fusion of Mrs Beeton and Elizabeth Davis ! The dish I remember most is boiled mutton and caper sauce. With my sisters, I was born and spent my early childhood in what was then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). My parents were medics – and keen gardners. We were self-sufficient in veg (always with Thompson & Morgan seeds), and instead of capers, my mother used pickled nasturtium seeds – I loved it ! Sheep were rare, and when they did appear they would be in a condition requiring a lot of boiling and always with a fist of Bay Leaves (from the garden) !
4. Why do we see less women in food and farming in the UK than in many other countries, and how can we change that?
Of course its cultural – Though we’ve had some exceptional women farmers; Beatrix Potter, Eve Balfour, Hannah Hauxwell to name three well known women farmers. An obvious reason is the system of land tenure – predominantly down the male line. Another reason for knowing little about any others is that farming is demanding – and possibly if a woman farmed in our culture, she was likely unmarried, on her own with little help (like Hannah) – so no time to spread the word or be noticed !
5. What message do you have to other women and young women in particular who are thinking about food or farming as a career?
Believe in the power of the female intuition to nurture and the invaluable perception this provides with animals, plants and food. To nurture these into their potential requires harmony and grace – essentially (though not exclusively), female strengths. Our beloved planet and its exquisite biosphere is in desperate need of these right now !
Denise Walton farms at Peelham Farm