Dorset farm create unique food label to honour local producers
The Cossins family says shopping local is key to agricultural sustainability.
As well as opening a butchery and shop on their own farm, they have launched a food label and awards scheme to showcase their county’s best produce and help put consumer trust back into buying locally.
James Cossins is the fifth generation to oversee day to day life at Rawston Farm, in Tarrant
Rawston, near Blandford Forum, Dorset, a traditional mixed farm covering 1,012 hectares (2,500 acres), of which 647ha (1,600 acres) are owned by the family, with the rest a combination of rented and contract farming.
They have 300 milking cows across two herds – mainly Friesian Holsteins – and keep 180 cattle, including traditional breeds such as Aberdeen-Angus and Herefords, which go into the farm’s butchery and shop.
James also grows 728ha (1,800 acres) of crops including winter barely, winter wheat, spring barley, spring beans and maize on their land, situated half an hour from the coast.
His wife, Barbara, came up with the idea of opening their butchery in 2012, initially to supply home produced meat to the village pub – The Langton Arms, in neighbouring Tarrant Monkton – which she has been managing since they bought it 30 years ago.
In 2018, Barbara came up with a plan to create a county-wide Love Local Trust Local food label scheme to help consumers understand the provenance of their food and encourage them to support local farmers and growers.
The ethos of the scheme is built on three main aspects: quality – that food should be grown with love and care to the highest ethical standards; honesty – that customers should know the full provenance of the food they are eating; and proximity – that sourcing food from within 30 miles of its destination fosters community and is good for the environment.
Barbara says: “The label scheme came about after we’d hosted an Open Farm Sunday event. It was very apparent how important food miles and eating local produce and meat was to so many people and that they wanted to support the British farmer.
“But there were issues at that time with supermarkets being taken to court over fake farms, food being brought into the country and being reprocessed and repackaged under the British flag as well as the horsemeat scandal.
“It was clear, even through our own butchery and shop, we needed a label created by farmers for farmers so people could see and trust what they were buying.
“We did it for ourselves and our friends and other farmers thought it was a really good idea.
“Originally, it had the Union Jack on it, but I cannot really promote that, so we’ve got the logo of a boot, as not everybody who is producing has a tractor, and now other selected producers use it too.”
In 2020, despite being in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Barbara continued with her campaign, launching her own Dorset Food and Drink Awards to showcase the producers using her label and their own unique stories.
Thanks to the power of the internet and sponsorship, the awards attracted more than 60 entries across categories including meat, cheese, drinks, fish, chutneys and confectionery.
“It’s all about recognising and celebrating small, independent business, including farmers and fishermen, which genuinely support and embrace everything local in their food and drink production, telling their stories rather than those of the pubs and restaurants.”
She has always been passionate about food. A farmer’s daughter, she had hoped to study catering and hospitality, but ended up going to agricultural college so she could work on her parents’ dairy farm when her father’s health began to fail.
After marrying James, the couple bought The Langton Arms and Barbara juggled running the pub with raising her family, becoming more involved in the farm when the butchery opened, followed by the on-site farm shop.
The Cossins have been farming in the Tarrant Valley since 1877 and have a long tradition as milk production wholesale suppliers since 1910. James began working on the farm in 1978 and hopes their son, Henry, who is currently working for a local agricultural supplier, will become generation number six. They use a grass-fed system for their cattle, with the milkers grazing in the summer months on the naturally lush and mineral rich pastures of the Tarrant Valley, while the beef animals receive grass and maize silage in the two months before they leave the farm.
Milk from the dairy herd is sold through contract to Arla, while the traditional, hardy breeds are reared to go through the farm’s butchery. They breed their own dairy replacements and James uses Aberdeen-Angus and Hereford bulls on the remainder of the animals.
“What we are looking for within our own little butchery is small animals. They go to the local abattoir at about two years old as we can’t really cope with big animals,’ James says.
“Ideally, we require about one-and-a-half a week, which over a year equates to 70 to 80 animals which come back at about 300–350kg deadweight and goes into our shop, a few other independent retailers and the pub.”
The butchery opened in 2012 after it was decided to transform a redundant building and reinvigorate the farm. Barbara employed a local butcher and the venture has gone from strength to strength. They sell their own 28-day matured beef and work closely with other Dorset farmers and suppliers to offer a quality selection of meat including pork, lamb and game all under one roof. They also sell homemade pies, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, home-cooked ready meals and Barbara’s ‘delicious’ vanilla ice-cream.
“Because we’re farmers it was really hard getting good quality meat. I’d always wanted to sell our own meat in the pub,” Barbara says.
“We had our own animals, so it was just a question of putting it all into place. “It started off being just for the pub, so diners could really experience the field to plate philosophy, but then people started coming to us and it’s just grown from there, with the shop coming a little later.”
The farm is eligible for a number of environmental schemes, although determining which to go for is sometimes a challenge in itself, says James. He works closely with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and is just coming to the end of his current Mid-Tier Scheme, so is currently considering his options.
There are conservation margins on the farm as well as beetle banks and they grow cover crops, including fodder radish, black oats, vetches and phacelia. But James says one of the biggest challenges has been trying to ascertain what the future of farming actually is.
“Now with Brexit done, we are hoping British consumers will want British produced foods and not rely on imports. The last year has taught us how important this is,” he says.
“But if you’re prepared to work hard, I think there’s a good future in milk. “Other issues are meeting the requirements of contracts when you’re a working farm. It’s all very well having pots of flowers about, but we’ve got cattle and it’s not always practical. Then there’s trying to find good staff. People think it’s hard work and poorly paid, but there are a lot of youngsters coming into the industry and we need them to know they can earn a reasonable wage, while enjoying the benefits of working outdoors and physical activity.”
Opening the butchery and shop has helped raise the farm’s profile locally and that has helped the family spread the word about quality produce as well as giving them a platform to explain what they are doing, how they do it and why.
Looking to the future, Barbara is keen to keep growing her initiatives. She wants to inspire other growers and producers to share their stories and in turn encourage the public to back their own local farmers.
“For me, it’s all about taking people back to basics and getting people to reconnect with agriculture and farmers,’ she says.
“I want to be handing over my experience. For years I didn’t want to share my recipes, but now I know that I need to.
“Farmers still want to keep producing food and for that they need the public’s support.”
A Farmer's Guardian article by Emily Ashworth
The Cossins' family have been farming in the Tarrant Valley since 1877 and have a long tradition as milk production wholesale suppliers since 1910. James Cossins began his work on the farm in 1978 and is the fifth generation of the Cossins' family to oversee the day to day life at Rawston Farm in Tarrant Rawston, Dorset.
We have our own Rawstar Dairy Herd which achieved pedigree status in 1950, we still have the passport cards drawn out of the first heifers born in 1951 with the bloodline name Rawstar Sandy. We also raise traditional cattle breeds of Aberdeen Angus and Herefords. All our cattle are grass fed all year round on the naturally lush and mineral rich grass that the Tarrant Valley affords us, we believe this to be some of the best grass pastures for our herds in the Country.
The Cossins Family – 5th and 6th Generations
James and Barbara with their children Georgie and Henry
Due to pollution regulations we had to sell one of our dairy herds and in 2012 we decided to make use of a sad and redundant building and to bring some new life and energy back into the farmyard. The butchery was thus created. By 2017 the butchery had proved to be a very popular addition to our farm. We thus extended further to create Rawston Farm Shop right next door, offering not only superb quality locally reared meat but a wide range of locally sourced produce as well. The butchery and farm shop are now open to the public Monday to Saturday 8:00am to 5:00pm, closed on Sunday. Our butchery also supplies seven local independent retailers, a list which continues to grow.
We are now selling our own 28 day matured beef that is supplied direct from our farm in the Tarrant Valley. We also work closely with only the best Dorset farmers and suppliers to offer the best quality and selection of Dorset meat and produce all under one roof. With the addition of homemade pies, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, home-cooked ready meals and Barbara's scrumptious vanilla ice-cream, we are continuing to constantly expand what the Farm Shop offers.
Barbara and James Cossins are also the owners of the award-winning Langton Arms Pub, just down the road from Rawston Farm in Tarrant Monkton. With meat now supplied from the family farm and butchery, customers who dine here can really experience the "field to plate" philosophy. Sourcing quality, locally produced meat and produce has always been important to the Cossins' family both for the The Langton Arms and now Tarrant Rawston Butchery and Farm Shop as well. Recently the pub won the prestigious Taste of Dorset Award and here Barbara talks about the pub and what makes it such a special place.
LOVE LOCAL TRUST LOCAL
Rawston Farm are proud to support the annual LEAF "Open Farm Sunday" campaign, where farms all over the Country take their turn to open their gates for people to discover real farming first hand and to see for themselves how their food is produced.
When we hosted this event in 2018 and began talking to our many visitors, we discovered how important food miles and eating local produce and meat was to so many people. The Cossins family thus created and are proud to promote the Dorset "Love Local Trust Local" symbol, based on the following ethos
- We believe that food should be grown with love and care to the highest ethical standards
- We believe that customers should know the full provenance of all the foods they are eating
- We believe that sourcing food from within 30 miles of its’ destination, fosters community and is good for the environment
Look out for the "Love Local Trust Local" symbol on our produce reared, prepared and sold at Rawston Farm Butchery and Farm Shop.