Food producers: Great Garnetts, Barnston
PUBLISHED: 11:30 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:55 20 February 2013
SPEAK to Julie Smith at Great Garnett's and the first thing you will be struck by is her enthusiasm for the home-produced pork that is their speciality, writes Stephanie Mackentyre...
SPEAK to Julie Smith at Great Garnett's and the first thing you will be struck by is her enthusiasm for the home-produced pork that is their speciality, writes Stephanie Mackentyre. The family have been farming at Great Garnett's for almost 40 years and just over three years ago they began to produce their very own pork, ham and sausages.
There has been even more excitement recently after winning the prestigious 2008 Great Taste Gold Award from the Guild of Fine Foods.
This was the first time the couple had entered a taste award. Initially they had to hand-deliver some of the farm-reared, fresh pork to Somerset for the first round of judging. It wasn't until after two more rounds and well into summer that they finally found out they had won.
The competition was tough and Great Garnett's was up against some excellent well-known brands. But Julie gives great credit to the traceability of the pork they produce - all the animals are born and bred on the farm.
'This national award is purely for our pork - with nothing added to it,' explains Julie. Sadly she and husband Jonathan were unable to attend the grand ball to accept their award in person as Julie was seven months pregnant at the time.
Julie and Jonathan met at Writtle College in the 1980s after Julie had come over from County Armagh to study horticulture. They fell in love and Julie has lived in Essex ever since. The couple have two sons, Charlie (3) and Harry (2), and number three is just a few weeks away.
Great Garnett's pork products now reach some of the furthest-flung corners of the UK thanks to an online sales scheme launched last November at the BBC Good Food Show. Julie is also heavily involved in running the extremely popular farmers' markets which are hosted every second Saturday in the month.
The markets regularly draw more than 900 shoppers to enjoy the 65 different produce stalls. Visitors make a morning of it, bringing the children along for face painting, bouncy castle fun and to pet the pigs and goats too. The only months they don't hold these markets are August and December, just to give the family a break. It's a large family too, all working together on the farm to help with production, even the long-serving staff are more like adopted family members.
'I love the community here, it's just like where I grew up. It is lovely and rural and yet with links to main towns and cities and in our case Stansted and London.'