Local grain the organic way

TUCKED away behind Harpenden Golf Course is a gem of a farm, Hammonds End, run by Howard and Ginny Roberts.

They supply organic wheat, rye, spelt and oats to nearby Redbournbury Mill, which you can see from some of the fields. Without Hammonds End, The Pudding Stop, and quite a few of our other local independent bakers would be stuck!

Hammonds End also supplies their excellent high-grade grain to many other artisan mills, and when I popped in for a visit, the owner of Denver Mill in Norfolk, Mark Abel, had come to collect sacks of grain. Mark explained that their local farms were no longer able to survive selling grain, reminding me how lucky we are to have Hammonds End local and thriving.

Howard and Ginny have been running the farm since taking over from Howard’s parents Trevor and Barbara about 25 years ago. Their sons Stuart and Tim also live on the farm, along with their young families, and Stuart is hoping to develop the beef side of the business.

Howard told me that he used to go to Verulam School in St Albans when it was a grammar school, and Ginny said that their boys went to Sir John Lawes in Harpenden. Ginny’s father, Henry Barker ran the Herts Show for 35 years! I am sure many of our readers will remember at least one generation of the family.

Howard explained how he was encouraged by Mandy James at Redbournbury Mill to develop the grain side of his business many years ago, and she introduced him to the Traditional Cornmiller’s Guild.

Mandy was keen to have locally grown grain for her mill, and continues to use it now. The next customer was The National Trust and the mill at Anglesey Abbey. I have visited Anglesey Abbey with my children, and visitors are encouraged to try milling the grain, and can buy flour and bread from the results. Hammonds End now supply watermills and windmills across the British Isles, from St Ives and Aberystwyth to Holt and Carlisle.

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It has taken Howard and Ginny almost 10 years to change the farm to become organic, and it has been since 2009.

It has been a particularly busy few weeks at Hammonds End, as Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bake-off has been a visitor for the filming of his new series on baking, due out in February.

Paul arrived for harvest (and a very early breakfast) and to film Howard sorting the grains. They both then drove to Redbournbury Mill on a tractor to show the next part of the process.

Mandy and Justin at Redbournbury Mill then showed how to mill the grain, before taking it into the nearby bakery for Paul to work his magic, alongside Redbournbury’s own baker Steven Mansbridge.

The finished product then travelled to The Foragers at The Verulam Arms, where Paul and his team enjoyed their bread – all made with minimum food miles. Ginny and Howard explained that Paul was lovely to have around. You can see George and Tom, two of their grandsons, in the photo with Paul.

I was interested to hear that The Foragers have also led a foraging walk on Hammonds End land recently.

The actual route is a secret, but apparently they managed to find a wide range of wild crops and herbs which they took back to the pub to turn into dinner.

Recently walkers through the farm were able to pick up bramley apples in return for a small donation to the local hospice. You can also visit the farm on Open Farm Day, usually held in June, so look out for details of that on their website (www.hammondsend.co.uk) nearer the time.

So next time you buy flour and bread from Redbournbury Mill, are enjoying a waffle from The Waffle House, puds from The Pudding Stop, or breads sold in The Blueberry Caf� and The Courtyard Caf�, you know exactly where they started out!

For more local foodie news visit Becky’s blog: thelocalfoodie.wordpress.com