Upon first appearance, when driving up to Todenham Manor Farm with your wellies in tow, you think you’ve fallen upon the wrong place. Trees neatly line a long clean drive. Pretty painted signs you’d expect to find in the gift section of Waitrose indicate a ‘butchery’. Not a leaf in site, hardly any mud — surely this can’t be a farm?
Irayne, owner of the farm, is clearly used to having this commented upon. Smiling she tells us of visitors stumbling on a stable with a bit of dirt on it and commenting “at last, a bit of shit.” Our ideas of what a farm should look like, scruffy and scummy, are completely disappointed at Todenham Manor Farm. However, our ideas need to change, because this incredibly well-kept farm results in some incredibly delicious produce.
It’s her background which gives the farm its edge; their produce has a superiority you simply can’t get by being scruffy. Born and raised in London, Irayne couldn’t have been more foreign to farming. However, on a mission to clean up some woodland in the gardens of her new home in the Cotswolds, she bought three pigs.
“I went on the internet and googled pig breeds”
“I went on the internet and googled pig breeds” Irayne went for the local Gloucester old spot, a middle white & a Berkshire which turned into the 400 or so she has today.
“I loved it, I loved them; but when the time it came for them to be slaughtered, I realised my first big error: I had named the pigs.” Irayne laughed. It seems that the taste of the big bag of sausages which followed helped her overlook this love.
A Gloucester old spot with some piglets
Soon Irayne had acquired some pedigree South Devon and Angus cattle and her journey continued into the realm of beef. In no time, her building of a butchery and partnership with a butcher would make demand for her product sky rocket and help her achieve accolades from Chef’s such as Tom Aikens who called her fillet “truly outstanding, Juicy & moist.”
“Truly outstanding, Juicy & moist.”
Chef Tom Aikens on Todenham Manor Farm’s Fillet.
Alright view for a pig stye
For when it gets hot in the summer, they have dug pools of water for bathing and planted fruit trees for shade (with the added bonus of making a crunchy sweet snack for them). They live outdoors all year so that they can root and forage.
One of their cows with a newly born calf
Their cattle. During the summer months, the cattle graze on the pastures surrounding the farm. During the winter, cows can’t be left without shelter so they come into the barns. Irayne pushed planning permission for these stables to have extra high ceilings and open walls to the outdoors, making sure there was ample room for sunlight to get in. They feed on a home-grown mix of silage and cereals.
Iraynes care for her animals fed a dedication to respecting the next part of their journey. She found a local abattoir three miles away and she taught herself butchery: “I wanted to do everything from scratch, from feeding the animals to grinding my own spices for sausages.”
“I wanted to do everything from scratch, from feeding the animals to grinding my own spices for sausages.”
Before farming, Irayne used to be a caterer. This focus around flavour allowed her to approach farming from a different angle. Without years of traditions and techniques drummed into her, Irayne had to look at what made great taste (And in their case, many Great Taste Awards!); it seems her way of farming, with love, care and a well-groomed farmyard, is the best technique there is out there.
The farm now have a butchery, drying-aging room and most importantly… an expert: Wayne Standley trained as a retail butcher and has worked previously as a meat and livestock grader. His experience allows the aging and processing of the high quality meat to be respected and maintained from field to fork.
Visiting the farm
Foodchain’s Amelia, Wayne & Irayne, about to enter one of the butchery rooms.
Foodchain spent four hours visiting the stunning farm of Todenham Manor. Welcomed by the warmth of Wayne and Irayne, we were captivated by their passion for their livestock and then the care of their produce before it reaches the customer. Their consistency of cleanliness got us into hairnets and overalls. Like a good chef keeps their kitchen, they keep their butchery: immaculate.
While Irayne has given up naming her pigs, her love still remains (even her ring-tone which interrupted our conversation was a soundtrack of pigs “oinking”), and this is shown in what they produce.
Even her ring-tone which interrupted our conversation was a soundtrack of pigs “oinking”
The dry-aging room on the farm
We tried a perfectly cooked and lightly seasoned sirloin; such tenderness and juiciness requires no condiments. They dry age their beef for a minimum of 28 days and the flavour which this encourages was evident in every mouthful — such savouriness, some sweetness — a touch of bitterness.
Following this came an onslaught of sausages: Black pudding, chorizo, and “nicely spiced” varieties of sausage were fried up in their tiny kitchen, and chopped up for us to taste. Next level.
They gave us a goodie bag to take home. In this we had some of their cured bacon, which we sizzled the next morning into crispy, fatty perfection.
Their dedication is outstanding, quality even more so. Any chef would be a fool not to try and feature them on their menu.
We’ll be organising a day down to the farm for you to meet them both, see the operation (including their EPIC dry-aging room) and have a butchery course. If you are interested in coming along, email Amelia here.