Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day Lewis have all won three Academy Awards but farming couple Jon and Charlotte Clarkson of Kiplingcotes Farm in Dalton Home in East Yorkshire have scooped even more than those venerable names in their own industry’s Oscars.
They have won at least one of the food world’s Great Taste awards every year and this year picked up a Deliciously Yorkshire Taste Award for their spreadable chorizo as well as being shortlisted for their sliced fennel salami.
Three Little Pigs, their now 10-year old on-farm diversification into food production, came about due to a chance remark Charlotte made a few years earlier. Little did she know this was to bring about one of the more unusual modern day wedding presents when she and Jon married in 2005, although not unheard of in farming circles.
“One of our neighbours remembered I’d mentioned perhaps having one or two pigs and presented us with a couple of Berkshires. They caused a degree of merriment and entertainment for our guests on the wedding day and it was that moment which led us to what we have achieved since.
“It has been a remarkable journey and we are so proud of the various Taste awards and the amazing customer feedback.
“Our pigs are all rare breeds that are ethically raised outdoors in our Wolds countryside. We believe a happy pig, free from stress makes for great tasting meat and we have also been recognised for our care and attention to their health and well being through a Gold Award from Compassion in World Farming. We spoil them as many grandparents do when looking after grandchildren with mineral water from our well.
“We had been told that Berkshires produced fantastic pork and while we were waiting for the two wedding present sows, Mavis and Mabel, to have their first litters we took on three little pigs from the same farmer. We had them in a straw pen with big bales around and our first lesson was learning how high little pigs can jump! They are inveterate escapologists and we soon realised they are great characters too.
“When the time came to try the pork we were amazed. It was a fabulous taste like we’d never had before. We went on to find out that all rare breed pigs offer amazing flavour. They have that extra layer of fat that makes all the difference to taste and texture. When you’ve only ever eaten lean pink pork the comparison is unbelievable and we felt we were on to something.”
Today, Three Little Pigs’ product is sold in Selfridges and the Whole Foods Market in London and is seemingly available all around the world.
“Yorkshire is still our biggest market and we have some wonderful shops that stock our produce including Wensleydale Creamery and the Courtyard Dairy at the Old Falconry Centre near Settle, but we also distribute through wholesalers right across the UK.
“We attend many events and food festivals including Malton, Beverley and York. We have a Scottish distributor and receive feedback from customers telling us they have picked up our produce in some of the most remote Scottish islands, but the one that really caused our jaws to drop was when we recently had a lady tell us she had found Three Little Pigs packs in Nairobi!”
Jon and Charlotte currently have 30 sows producing around one and a half litters per year. While Charlotte’s emphasis is on making sure their marketing and promotion continues to maintain top notch status Jon’s livestock husbandry assures the quality and distinctive flavour of which Three Little Pigs has become synonymous and has brought about plaudits throughout the food industry and more importantly still from consumers.
Jon knows that the number of pigs they have and his ability to give the appropriate time is crucial. “We usually run between 200-300 pigs at any one time although we have fewer around at the moment as the September to Christmas period is our busiest time for food production. We don’t push our pigs. The sows average eight per litter. Our main three breeds are Tamworth, Berkshire and British Lop that are put to either our Large White or Berkshire boars. We don’t use AI, everything is natural here. ”
Charlotte and Jon have a young family and have built a fabulous reputation for great produce winning awards, maintaining great animal welfare standards and in so doing have also assisted rare breeds’ survival.
“We had aspirations to do something different in farming,” says Charlotte. “And when I finished work as a solicitor on maternity our idea was born. We are immensely grateful for all the help we have received, initially from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society through a Growing Routes grant; and then from all our friends and relatives who acted as our initial tasters; and Jon’s brother Richard who came up with the name Three Little Pigs.
“We’re constantly juggling our commitments from one business to another but it is all proving thoroughly worthwhile.”