Kate Humble follows a farming family who have hooked on to the the trend for UK's answer to olive oil, producing their own cold-pressed rapeseed oil.
Browse content similar to South Devon. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
In Britain's beautiful landscapes,
traditional farming is battling to survive.
Making a living here has its challenges,
but those challenges are being met head-on with invention,
energy and passion.
A new breed of trailblazing entrepreneurs
are turning back to the land,
to reinvent old trades and set up modern rural businesses.
Latest figures show that as many as 100,000 people are leaving
our cities and moving to the countryside every year.
I've seen first-hand,
having started my own rural business in Monmouthshire,
the grit and determination needed to take that leap.
And joining me is award-winning organic restaurateur
Geetie Singh Watson,
who will bring her knowledge and passion.
I am really, really impressed.
We're going to be meeting
some of the modern-day countryside pioneers...
..whose love, skill and tenacity
are at the heart of this rural revolution.
-This is a passion.
I'm doing it cos I believe in the product.
Every area and every season present new challenges.
We're in South Devon.
Following six innovative businesses through spring...
Welcome to Devon!
..summer and autumn, as they take on big investments...
This is our future. In seven years' time, hopefully, my friends!
..and break new ground...
This is the best smelling room
you'll ever walk into in your entire life!
Wow, that smell is incredible.
'..doing their bit to reinvigorate our great British countryside.'
I never know what the next phone call is going to be.
I have the best job in the world!
South Devon's rolling hills and rich food heritage pull in millions of
tourists every year and many then come back for good.
It's become one of the most popular places in Britain to move to.
And with all those new people come new ideas and new businesses.
It's a very soggy Devon spring,
and the apple blossom is only just out in May.
It was once a common sight across this traditional cider county.
But Devon lost nearly 90% of its native orchards in just 50 years
as apples became more intensively farmed.
I've come to Hazelwood near Kingsbridge
to meet a farmer's daughter determined to reverse that trend
and capitalise on our growing thirst for craft cider.
Goodness me, Tash!
Welcome to Devon! You've picked a sunny day!
It's lovely to meet you.
-You're quite soggy!
I can't believe you're actually working out here on a day like this.
I'm actually very excitable about this new orchard,
which has been ravaged by hares and everything else.
So I'm now here putting some guards on.
Clearly it is a brand-new orchard.
Have we, sort of, got you right at the start of this venture?
Absolutely. So we literally planted these this year.
-And the plan is really to try and make this a lovely
productive orchard with nature in mind.
But mainly, we've just got to secure our future.
Natasha, along with husband, Barney,
came back to the land to take on her dad's then tiny cider side-line.
She's since grown the business
by diversifying into soft drinks and cider vinegar.
Now a 15-strong workforce produces 300,000 bottles a year,
using Devon apples bought in from local growers.
-Oh, it's a bit drier in here!
Look at this!
-Here we go.
-This is where it all happens.
In here, we have about 88,000 pints of cider bubbling away quietly.
-So we have about 27 or 28 different orchards here
so there's lots of different varieties.
Unlike more rapid commercial production,
this cider has been fermenting naturally since last autumn,
and each local variety is different.
-So this is from a very, very bland, mostly sweet orchard.
-It's not fully fermented.
That is unchallenging, quite pale in colour, not wildly exciting.
The sort of stuff that you might drink behind the bike sheds at 16.
Bingo! I did that too, don't worry.
If you have a little try this one, a bitter, totally different flavour.
Totally different flavour. You taste it in a slightly different,
-sort of more on the roof of your mouth.
-But it's a more complex flavour.
So every year, the cider that you produce will surprise you?
You're not just making a kind of standard product?
Not at all. And it can change at any point.
You're making it sound lovely.
You know, is it just sort of simple as?
It's been a horrific journey!
I think the first seven years were...
I made every mistake that it was possible to make.
We had someone who unintentionally left the lid off a tank,
a 10,000-litre tank.
So a 10,000-litre tank of fermenting apple juice?
Fermented cider and cider don't mix.
And if they do mix, they turn into vinegar.
So we tucked it away at the back of a barn,
-it bubbled away and bubbled away.
-And you were thinking,
"There's my disappearing bank balance right there."
I don't think I slept between December and Easter of that year.
And then incredibly,
I had a phone call from someone asking if I had any cider vinegar.
Well, I do, actually.
I went and tried it and it's the most delicious thing.
-I know. Really good.
So your third year mistake...
Has now become my 12th year revelation!
'Incredibly, it's now their fastest-growing product.
'But for this diverse business to keep growing,
'what Tash really needs is more volume.
'And her new orchard of 2,000 trees represents a six-figure investment.'
There's something just so exciting about planting a tree, isn't there?
It just, it feels like a legacy.
-It is, isn't it?
It's our future. In seven years' time, hopefully, my friends,
it's going to make me some cider!
You do have to be patient, don't you?
'But that's not the biggest gamble here.
'Tash is securing a £450,000 bank loan
'to fund a brand-new production facility.'
Is this going to be your sort of headquarters?
This is it. I'm very excited. I'm generally quite excited,
but I'm very excited about this because this is our future
and we've been working quite tirelessly towards this.
And whilst currently it looks a bit like a kind of enormous quarry,
the new site will also give us space,
an environment that's easy to work in, good production equipment,
all those things that will make our business sustainable and grow.
What's so lovely is that your excitement is absolutely palpable.
We're standing here in, it has to be said,
possibly the most filthy afternoon of the spring.
What's the sort of timeframe, do you think?
Well, I'm thinking October.
-That's when the Bramley apples are coming in and...
I'm hopeful. Who knows,
the main thing is it's happening and I think with anything,
I think the farming and anything involving the land,
you have to have patience.
Seasonal business is hugely volatile but with so much at stake this year,
let's hope the wild Devon weather helps Tash out a bit.
I hate to say it, Monmouthshire, where I'm from,
also a very good cider area,
the apples seem to have been out for ages.
And I'm really surprised, I thought down here in Devon
you would be streets ahead of us.
Everything's coming at once and everything's late.
So hopefully, if this weather eases off,
the bees will fly and we'll get a really good pollination
because there's so much blossom around.
However, if it's terrible weather and it continues,
and we lose all our blossom, then we'll have a terrible crop.
So it is a really nail-biting couple of weeks, really, for us.
I haven't quite got the measure of Tash.
On the face of it, she seems to be a happy-go-lucky,
roll-with-the-punches kind of girl.
But I have a suspicion she may be more steely than that.
I kind of hope so. I expect her bank does too.
Because that new orchard alone
represents an enormous investment and then,
there's the whole proposed new processing site.
And there's a lot riding on that site, clearly.
I mean, they really want it finished by the autumn.
But whoever heard of a building project that goes without a hitch
and finishes on time?
And it won't be until we're back later in the year
that we'll find out if the grand expansion plans
have made any progress at all.
It's a time for new beginnings across the county...
especially for the 4,500 new businesses in Devon this year.
Geetie started her pioneering organic pub 18 years ago.
Now she's heading to meet two new business partners
making a radical leap themselves,
to take up a very different slice of life on the land,
near Clyst St Mary.
Devon is now my home county
and one of the things I love about living here
is the incredible food that is produced.
Today, I'm going to be meeting with two guys who are working with pigs
and doing really amazing things with the meat.
'Three years ago,
'Steve and Pete left their jobs in recruitment and sailing,
'bought a sausage machine and set up a meat curing business
'in two tiny Portakabins.
'They now produce a range of cured delicacies.
'They source all their meat from within a 15-mile radius
'and keep their pigs on a local farm.'
Oh, you're so gorgeous! What kind of pigs are they?
A lot of people call that a Large Black,
but they also call it a Devon Black or a Cornish Black.
We use all of these to make our charcuterie, so we cure meat.
-This is a very closely linked pig to the Pata Negra,
so you know the Iberico hams?
-They use Pata Negra, which is another Blackfoot pig.
So we're, you know, we're trying to do what they're doing with Iberico
but with our Devon version of a pig.
How did you end up in Devon doing this?
We became friends about ten years ago when we did a charity car rally
from Calais to Casablanca in a £100 car!
But then driving through France, driving through Andorra,
driving through Spain, we ate in some great cafes and restaurants
where you still have all your hams
and all your salamis and chorizos hanging up above the bars.
And it just got us talking.
And the rest, as they say, is kind of history.
So charcuterie and...
Ow! Stop it!
Some of them are getting blue noses from my jumper!
Now they butcher around 50 pigs, 100 deer and 2,000 rabbits a year...
..adapting their products to whatever is available locally
during the seasons.
They sell their chorizos and salamis at festivals and food fairs
and now at their recently opened deli and restaurant.
But with just a few mainly part-time staff,
they've tried to maintain the low risk,
DIY approach they started out with.
Most people starting up a business like this would be budgeting
to spend tens of thousands, wouldn't they?
So are you prepared to tell me how much you've spent?
We can tell you what the initial investment was in Good Game.
-We bought a sausage filler and a mincer.
We had a handwritten sign.
And we worked out of my garage, so, you know, that was day one.
'But the boys are latching on to a potentially lucrative market.
'And producing their home-grown charcuterie
'is still satisfyingly low-tech.'
This is quite possibly the best smelling room you'll never walk into
in your entire life.
Do I get to go in first, then?
That smell is incredible.
It's really mushroomy.
It's a culture that's doing a lot of that work,
the whiteness that you can see on the salamis,
it's very similar to beer making, cheesemaking,
the same kind of processes.
-There's a little bit of wood in here which is essential to
give the bacteria somewhere to live.
So the wood and the bacteria, is that new thinking?
Not at all. It's the old thinking.
If you go back hundreds of years, people making sausages,
it would have been in a barn, in a shack, in a shed,
and kept very rustic. Because that's all they had at the time.
So how long are these racks hanging for?
Some 7-10 days, some 18 months, 2 years.
But it's gauged on water loss and weight loss.
We come in here twice a day,
-everything gets looked at, talked at.
-A bit of a stroke!
I can tell you really enjoy this!
Passion and patience rather than big investment
have been the driving force for Steve and Pete.
It's an ongoing learning process, butchery, really.
I would frequently be sat watching videos of pig butchery,
just learning what I needed to learn.
And are you managing to pay yourself a salary?
No, I've got about another year before I've run out of money
-and have to.
But Pete and I take money as we need it.
And you talk about selling locally in Devon,
how are you marketing that?
The marketing we do at the moment is all through social media
and relatively inexpensive.
We don't have a big budget for that.
I want to be absolutely certain that you're getting that message across
because in a year's time, you've got to be making some serious money
to pay for yourself and pay for this business.
I don't have that expensive a lifestyle!
I think it'll be all right!
Do you want to have a cut?
No, I don't!
-No? Are you sure?
Tell me what I'm doing.
'Even the simplest chorizo takes around four weeks to produce,
'so like most self-starters,
'Steve and Pete's biggest investment is time.
'It's certainly a far cry from banking recruitment.'
OK, compared to your previous job, what's it like for you now?
It's tough. I mean, Pete and I work seven days a week.
It's hard graft. But I think it's exhausting sat in an office,
staring as a computer,
-doing something that you're not that passionate about.
Finally, we're getting to eat some of this!
I'm so excited.
'Three years in, they're selling everything they make and the new
'restaurant has started well.
'But they can't afford to sit back, as the selling season approaches.'
So, what are you going to try now?
And I'm going to chop this while you're talking because I want more.
We've got a really busy event calendar, you know.
Every small town now has a food festival or fair or music festival
and it's a chance for us to get out all over Devon and really promote
what we do and just get our really good food out to as many people as
-I'm going to have that lovely fatty bit.
-Look at that!
'There aren't many business partnerships
'that can withstand a start-up,'
but Pete and Steve have done incredibly well
and I think it's partly to do with their laid-back approach.
They've turned this experiment into a wonderful business and I'll be
really intrigued to see how this selling season goes.
With such a wet spring,
farmers will be looking ahead a little nervously
to the year's growing season.
Because here in Devon,
food production and agriculture are a big part of the regional economy.
But with falling margins,
for many traditional small-scale producers here,
the only answer is to diversify.
Near the coast in Upton,
John Bell is hoping the answer to his family's farming struggles
are to be found in a very recognisable crop.
This is oilseed rape, it's a crop grown for the oils it produces.
Now, rapeseed oil has had something of an image boost in the last few
years and that's resulted in sales increasing by a staggering 30%.
Farmer's son John decided to start
cold pressing his dad's rapeseed crop five years ago.
Hitting on the trend for healthier cooking oils,
this side-line produces 18,000 litres of the stuff every year.
Oh, I feel like I ought to be walking into the theme of
Little House On The Prairie or something!
-Lovely to see you.
-I'm John. Pleasure to meet you.
So it's May, it's raining.
Yes. What more would you expect?
Summer on the way, and rain.
-But how's the crop looking?
Are you feeling kind of generally optimistic that you're going to get
-a good yield of this year?
-Always have to feel optimistic,
but you're never sure until, of course, you get the combine in,
you get the crop off and you know how much you've got.
This, to me, is a mustard plant. Is it related to mustard?
You're absolutely right. It is a member of the Brassica family.
-And it is incredibly closely related to mustard.
The only difference being the seeds, instead of being a sort of brown,
they're almost jet black in colour.
So you're standing here in a very kind of farmery pose
with your wellies on. But you are not a farmer?
We're a farming family.
Dad has been an arable beef farmer all of his life.
And about five years ago I sat down with Dad and I said, you know,
"We've got to diversify, we've got to find some way
"of adding value to some of our produce."
For 40 years, their oilseed rape was grown and shipped off
to be made into commercial vegetable oil.
But then John persuaded his dad
to let him experiment with cold pressing.
A less efficient process,
but one which retains more of the oil's natural qualities.
Little did we know that using cold pressing,
we could produce something with so much flavour that can compete with
-This is still quite new, then?
Yeah, it's a small business, so it's a case of still growing,
But it's taken a huge investment just to get to this stage.
John and his wife, Rachel, had to raise £100,000
to build an on-site pressing facility...
..and then grow the brand alongside day jobs
in teaching and chartered surveying.
Initially, we used to do this at weekends and when taking holidays.
I've now dropped a day or two so I can concentrate further on this.
Because you just look ahead and you think, "It's that next jump,
-"it's that next jump."
-Shall we try some?
-What it reflects so beautifully, actually,
is the colour of the flowers.
Yeah, the colour can vary from a dark yellow
to an even brighter yellow than this.
And I think we grow in the same way
with the same variety, so I can only put that down to
seasonal changes in the weather, really.
And hopefully, what you should do is pick up a mild, nutty taste.
Oh, it's really quite... It really is nutty.
do you see that it could become something viable that supports
your family and continues to support the farm?
Look, that's why we started this and we've gone to all this effort.
So it's something that I'm going to plough on regardless, if you like,
until we achieve it.
It's certainly a brave venture, as everything depends on
a relatively small and weather-dependent 50-acre crop.
Being pessimistic, or perhaps realistic for a moment,
if the sun doesn't shine, would the business survive it?
If we got no crop, that would be pretty serious.
As far as I'm concerned, if our rape crop fails,
that really is it because that's our oil from our crop on our farm.
It's going to be a nervous wait until August
when I'll be joining John for that crucial harvest.
With summer around the corner,
the sun finally does start to make an appearance in South Devon.
Good news for seasonal producers like Tash,
for whom this is the beginning of peak selling season.
-Can I help you at all?
-She's got the family helping out today at their
hometown festival in Kingsbridge,
one of five food fairs they'll be at this year.
As a small producer, we don't have big marketing budgets.
So actually, without these small independent shows and events and
festivals, where I have direct contact with my customers,
it's very, very hard to break through.
-So where have you come from them?
It's a cider challenge! The challenge of Somerset versus Devon!
This year, I suspect they'll be needing every penny of profit,
given the scale of investment back at the farm.
We've just got to keep the pressure on,
all of the activity we do now will actually be used to fund this
amazing new build, actually, which will transform our lives.
'I keep on being really optimistic that we're going to be in, you know,
at the end of the summer, but
I think we're heading there, crossed fingers!
Thanks ever so much. That's lovely, cheers, thank you.
There we are, there's your pint. Can I help anyone?
Summer has arrived.
A time for rural businesses to reap the rewards from the hard work
in winter and spring.
The fertile land begins to bear fruit
as Devon's 5.5 million annual visitors start to arrive.
Many of the region's young start-ups rely on this buzzing tourist scene.
But few would consider making a living from the ancient land
and native livestock of Dartmoor.
A young university graduate is basing his entire business on just
a few acres of rented land and a flock of native Devon sheep.
'I'm in the foothills of Dartmoor near Chudley
'to meet someone committed to this land,
'with a foot firmly in the past...'
Here you go.
'..but a very forward-facing business.'
-I'm Kate. Lovely to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
-What a beautiful day!
21-year-old Lewis has created an emerging business
from his 200-strong flock of Dartmoor sheep.
Along with mum Paula,
he produces a range of handcrafted wool products
and has now started a side-line in sheepskins and meat boxes.
And it all stems from pestering his parents for three sheep
after passing his GCSEs.
What made you think, at 16,
that this was then going to build into a business?
I didn't think that at the time!
It was just going to be three and keeping it as a hobby.
And I started to see that what I love and I adore,
farming and looking after this landscape
and keeping this local breed
which, to me, makes sense. This has been here thousands of years,
so have these sheep. They fit.
-To do that, I could see that there was a way of doing this
and making a living from it. So that's when I started to think,
"Oh, hang on a minute, you know, maybe this'll work."
Now, you're going to have to tell me about these sheep
because I don't know anything about your type of local sheep.
I only keep local breeds,
white-faced Dartmoor and grey-faced Dartmoor.
And finally, I keep the Devon and Cornwall longwools.
OK. It's an amazing fleece.
It's quite coarse, it actually looks softer.
Yeah, they're all very heavily fleeced breeds.
All more carpet wool breeds.
You're talking as if you grew up with sheep,
literally, kind of, around your cot.
Not really. I don't really know where it's come from.
-Your mum and dad are not farmers?
But the bug sort of caught me.
Lewis has built his business on defying convention...
..beginning with the unusual and more expensive decision
to spin and dye his own wool at a local mill.
He gave his yarn to his gran to knit and the results proved so popular
that they started selling the products.
Lovely to meet you. How are you? I've just been admiring your sheep.
So is this the hub, is this the headquarters?
Definitely is, definitely.
A mother-and-son business!
-That's quite a bold idea.
Didn't you want to just get rid of him when he left school?
Yeah, quite unique, really! And he's come back again.
We do argue a lot, don't we?
Hell, yeah! Yeah.
But at the end of the day, we're all behind him.
As a wool to use, is it a good wool?
I mean, you're the knitter in the family!
It's a very strong wool. Our sheep are chunky, we wanted a chunky wool.
We're making festival blankets at the moment.
Really lovely idea.
And then we're going on to the winter,
our hats are very good with our sheepskin pom-poms on the top.
So you're, at the moment,
trying to make a living from, did you say 200 head of sheep?
-Is that working?
If we look on it from a business point of view,
-farming of the sheep...
-..breaks us even.
But because we're adding value to the wool...
-..the meat through our meat boxes and products...
-..and the skins to our sheepskin rugs and products...
-..each output takes us over the break-even point
-and adds the value.
-That's very clever!
Lewis's unlikely passion for Dartmoor sheep
isn't completely unfounded
after a chance discovery gave the business its identity.
My great-grandmother got this suitcase out of the spare bedroom,
she opened it up and you could see photos,
hundreds of photos of grey-faced Dartmoors.
-And I was like, "Where did this come from?"
And it was her grandmother.
So your great-great-grandmother...
Kept the breed at the turn of the century on Dartmoor,
-which I never knew.
-You never knew?
-No. And that's why now
we decided to name all we have after my great-grandmother Lily Warne.
I love the fact that he's identified, I think...
the key to the success of his business,
and that is the story.
He's realised that there are people out there that love to know
the provenance of the thing they're buying.
They love the backstory, and he's playing that absolutely to the hilt.
Good luck to him.
And I'm hoping, when we return later,
this year on the land for Lewis will be a profitable one.
Making any sort of living from wool today
requires a degree of creative thinking.
Most local fleeces barely fetch a pound per kilo
through centralised auctions.
But Lewis isn't the only Devon business
hoping to reinvigorate this once-flourishing local industry.
I'm heading to one of Devon's traditional wool towns,
Buckfastleigh, on the eastern fringes of Dartmoor.
Its last woollen mill closed its doors in 2013.
But now, two local innovators are hoping to kick-start a wool revival
with their pioneering new discovery.
Solid wool is a radical new material created by husband-and-wife team
Justin and Hannah from low-cost upland fleeces.
They've turned it into furniture
they now sell online.
-Hello, I'm Kate.
-Hello, nice to meet you.
-Hello, Kate, I'm Justin.
-Justin, lovely to see you both.
-Nice to meet you.
-Welcome to our home shop.
-Small, but perfectly formed.
-As we know,
wool has become a resource that has been almost worthless.
So how on earth did you come up with the idea that you could make
-furniture out of it?
-When we started playing with wool,
we didn't really have an end goal
and it almost gave ourselves the time to play with wool.
Justin's designed with composite materials before,
so fibreglass products,
so we hit upon this idea of mixing it with,
initially it was with a PVA glue to turn it solid.
Justin left his job to develop the idea full-time
and after a year of tinkering,
proved the concept with this extraordinary chair.
First of all, it's very comfortable,
which is obviously an important thing for a chair.
But when you see it from a distance, it looks very sleek and very clean.
And then, when you get close up,
you see that it's full of texture and, actually, you feel it.
Well, people always want to stroke it.
-And just like you were saying,
start looking into it to see the depth, really.
Hannah has now joined Justin full-time
and together they recently produced their 100th chair,
as well as some rather interesting prototypes.
Do you literally sort of, I don't know, have a great big pot
and mix the wool with the resin and iron it out?
We can't say too much about how we create it because it's, you know,
it's unique process which, yeah, we're in the middle of protecting.
So, hang on a minute, you haven't protected this idea?
You haven't patented it yet?
-Not yet, no. But that's not the only way to protect yourself...
..because if you don't tell people how you do it, then no-one knows.
Well, that's sort of true, but you must do that.
I'm sounding like your mum!
"Protect it, Justin, quickly!" Yes.
One chair contains about one-and-a-half sheep's worth
of coarse Herdwick fleece -
a strong, dark carpet wool which has become almost worthless.
The potential for where you could use of composite material, you know,
is massive, really.
It's quite exciting when you think of the possibilities.
I mean, it's very much one step at a time, you know,
starting from nothing and starting a business from nothing.
Well, both of you haven't come from cottage industry backgrounds,
and this seems to me rather more ambitious
than something that should stop at being a cottage industry.
So, where do you go from one,
it has to be said, very beautiful, slightly hairy chair,
where do you go from here?
What is the next stage of this business?
For us, the intention was always to create a company which could employ
some people in our town that will rejuvenate wool
and bring some wool manufacturing back here.
We're moving workshop quite soon, aren't we?
Yeah, this has been a great, low-cost place to start for us.
And we're just about to move into the centre of Buckfastleigh
-into the old woollen building.
-What a fantastic connection!
Yeah, it's been empty for about four years,
so we're the first company back in.
And are you fairly confident that you are
the only people in the world that are doing this?
No-one has made it into production.
No-one seems to have been as stupid as us!
Or foolish as us, maybe!
-Or brave, perhaps.
-Yeah, and stubborn.
You know, there's a lot of stubbornness.
-Bravery and stubbornness.
Two good things when you're starting a business.
I love the ethos behind Justin and Hannah's business.
The idea that they wanted to come up with a plan
to reinvigorate their hometown.
I really admire the fact that instead of just trying to come up
with something kind of artisan and sweet, they said,
"We're going to do something that no-one has ever done before."
That's brave. That's brilliant.
Devon was a region once famed for growing flowers,
but now, across the UK, just 12% of the flowers we buy are home grown.
But a blossoming food trend may be changing all that.
Go to a restaurant these days
and you're as likely to find flowers on your plate
as you are decorating your table.
Edible flowers have taken the culinary world by storm,
and one clever market gardener has been at the forefront
of this new food trend.
Geetie is in Kentisbeare, near Tiverton,
to unearth this pioneering spirit.
Jan left her London life behind 14 years ago
to set up as an organic grower.
Having started out in veg and salad,
her five-acre farm is now almost entirely devoted to
over 70 varieties of edible flowers,
which she ships nationwide for weddings
and to high-end restaurants.
-Hello, Jan. How are you?
-Hi, Geetie, nice to meet you.
You too. Great to meet you,
and your business, tell me all about it.
We're picking rose petals here.
These are going to a particular customer,
they're going to be made into organic rose water.
Nice, that's amazing.
-I'd love to see more.
-Can we have a roam round the gardens?
-Of course we can.
Jan has over 30 varieties of roses alone,
along with edibles from cornflowers to lavender.
How would you eat that, then?
It's fantastic with lamb, instead of rosemary.
Lavender and chocolate.
Oh! Blinding combination.
Oh, I wish you could all smell that, it's delicious.
I really want to get a picture of your year and how it works
because everything's in bloom now,
but it must be quite different across the year.
Yes, we start picking in earnest in, kind of,
beginning to middle of March and go on all through the summer
and we get more and more crops outside
all the way through until first frost hits
and then it's just a question of mulching
and all that kind of thing over winter,
so it's as busy in winter as it is in summer.
It's just different work.
Last year, Jan shipped more than 200 kilos of flowers,
turning over £45,000.
But growing a fragile crop organically is precarious.
In fact, the number of producers growing food in this way has fallen
by 20% in the past six years.
Given how onerous the cost is of being an organic business,
why did you decide to do it in the first place?
Well, I started out wanting to do it because I'm a perfectionist,
and when you're seeking to do something,
you want it to be the very best it's possible to be.
-You look back on it and you think,
"What the bloody hell was I thinking?"
-I can only laugh at that.
-I cried all the time.
I cried every time we got an infestation of caterpillars,
I cried when bindweed... I just cried all the time.
-And are you enjoying it now?
-I love it. I seriously do.
I never know what the next phone call is going to be.
We've been sending a load of roses to a Michelin star restaurant
for making Turkish delight.
It could be a celebrity wedding, it could be a festival.
October last year, we got a request from a chef
to do 7,500 flowers at the end of October
-for the launch of the new James Bond movie.
It's really obvious that you love this business,
and you've obviously put your whole life into it.
But I'd like to know if it makes you any money.
It does. It does.
I wouldn't do it if I didn't.
Farming on this scale, which is like less than five acres,
then you need to specialise.
There's more profit in flowers and that's what we started doing.
Being located in this foodie county has been a great help.
A fifth of her business is with local high-end restaurants.
That's lovely. Look at that.
Mustard leaves for that new dish.
Having been the head chef here for over 25 years,
if I say I'm serving local, seasonal food,
it has to be local, it has to be seasonal,
and Janet just encompasses all of that.
But perhaps key to succeeding with such a niche product
has been that Jan has pushed into markets beyond Devon's borders.
Online selling and the boom in courier services
have both been vital to Jan's farm-to-plate business.
She can now deliver fresh flowers next day
to the lucrative London wedding market.
Thank you very much.
Cake maker Bea is a regular customer.
I order the day before and they are with me by lunchtime the next day,
so they're super fresh. They're straight off the plant
and they quite often arrive with little tiny insects in the box,
which just shows you that the flowers we get are
the freshest you can get.
In the height of summer,
we get through tonnes of flowers every week, probably 10, 20 boxes,
right in the middle of summer
when everyone is getting married in London. Yeah, I love them.
I'm genuinely surprised that you can make a living out of
selling edible flowers, but Jan has done this and she's making a profit.
She's been flexible with her business and met market demand.
I think there's a lesson for us all there.
For the majority of south Devon's food producers,
summer means bringing business into the county,
and the food fairs keep coming thick and fast.
Topsham charcuterers Steve and Pete hit around three fairs a week
in summer, though today they're overseeing their own.
We're here at the Topsham Beer and Bacon Festival.
And over the whole weekend,
a few thousand people come through to drink some good beer,
-listen to music and...
There are about six or seven different food producers who come
-and show their wares.
-We use eight different breweries.
The furthest one is situated about 20 miles away.
They get around a third of their annual income from food fairs.
All right, boys. We sold out pulled pork, yes?
-How many scotch eggs have we gone through this weekend,
-do you reckon?
-Excellent. I'll leave you boys to it. Have fun.
But there's a value here beyond the bottom line
in championing their local town.
This is something we do and it pays for itself.
But more importantly, it's an event in our community,
so we can all show some stuff off,
some bands can show some stuff off and we all have a lot of fun,
but people travel from elsewhere in the county to come to this festival.
And they then get introduced to some of our produce
and we hope that they leave, kind of, quite loyal to our brand,
and they seek us out and they try and find it somewhere else.
For more isolated rural businesses,
getting exposure for their brand is key.
25 miles down the road, young farmer Lewis has an opportunity
to show his wares at the Chagford Show.
So we've got the Lily Warne flock on here,
so hopefully it drives some people to the website. We never know.
This has been a fixture in south Devon's farming summer
for over 100 years.
Our main boy for today is Ted the ram.
She's just going down the lines now.
She'll be checking the conformation, the teeth, their gentleman bits.
Having the cachet of a prize-winning flock
can raise the price of his breeding stock
and add value to his sheepskins and meat boxes.
-Thank you, Anne.
-Fourth. It's not very good.
Could have done a lot better,
but he stayed there and didn't drag me up to the other end of the field,
so we're doing well. We're doing well.
For us, it's not all about the show,
it's really important being a business
that sells direct to consumer,
to be at these shows where the public are here
and you can actually connect with the consumer properly.
It's the countryside version of networking.
It's August now,
and for south Devon's arable farmers, harvesting has begun.
The next three days are the most crucial
for the Bells' fledgling rapeseed oil business.
Well, what a contrast.
When I was here back in May,
the rapeseed in this field was almost shoulder high.
The rain was coming down in stair rods,
but this was a great sea of green and yellow flowers,
and now look at it.
We're here at harvest time.
It's been harvested right in front of my very eyes,
and just down the road, John is starting to press,
so I'm going to go and join him.
John's dad, Geoff,
is bringing in the harvest just as he's done for the past 40 years.
But rather than shipping the seed off to a wholesaler,
it will be pressed into cooking oil right here on the farm,
cutting out the middleman
in the hope of reaping the profits themselves.
John's spent tens of thousands to set up this facility,
so it's vital they get a return.
Are you there, John? Thank you.
Oh, my goodness! The smell is the amazing thing.
-I know, it's overwhelming, isn't it?
-You get that sort of mustardy type of smell.
He had hoped they might get a yield of up to two tonnes per acre.
How has this year's harvest been?
Fraught. It's been down.
Down to we reckon about a tonne and a quarter.
When I last saw you, you had sort of plans to expand.
-But because the yield is down for this year,
how does that affect your expansion plans?
We do a rough forecast, a budget if you like,
and luckily we still have enough for our own use
and will probably still have a bit of excess.
So this year, yeah, all right.
-Fingers crossed everything's all right.
-Breathe a sigh of relief.
So talk me through this lovely... It feels like a Dr Seuss machine.
Ah, yes, yes, the magic press.
Incredibly simple process, really.
-Now, the press itself is a very long screw.
-And it just rotates round and round and round.
-Squashing the seed.
Squashing the seed. If I open this up, you'll be able to see...
-Oh, look at that!
-..the oil will drip down through there.
So it is literally...
It's like getting one of those little rapeseeds and squashing it.
Squashing it through your fingers, absolutely.
Yeah, and doing that millions of times.
Cold pressing like this extracts about three quarters of the oil
achieved by commercial methods.
But John and his family hope that by doing it themselves
they will add more value to their crop.
Your whole mission has been about supporting the farm,
-the family farm.
Do you feel optimistic that you're on the right track?
That the family farm can keep viable
-because of what you've done with Bell and Loxton?
-I think it's...
It's only going to help,
but who knows what the future can bring?
We're a tiny, tiny, tiny, little farm in a very big world
and all I know is if I can help...
Bell and Loxton itself can help secure the farm, which it's doing,
year by year, it's growing,
then that takes away a bit of that uncertainty.
So the Bells live to fight on in south Devon
for another year at least.
Autumn is the time our rural businesses take stock
and discover if all the hard work has paid off.
Up on the Dartmoor Hills,
young entrepreneur Lewis is shearing his flock of native sheep,
supplying more wool for his knitted product lines.
Once the last sheep is shorn, Lewis prepares for the seasonal migration.
This is a very critical stage for us in the year.
We're loading up our Devon and Cornwall longwool flock.
Every year, we take all of our longwools down to the coast.
It's quite a traditional way of farming.
It obviously means that they are going down to that milder climate.
It should mean more ovulation of the ewes which, fingers crossed,
in the spring will turn out to be more lambs being born.
Lewis is doing everything he can now to increase the birth rate
in order to grow his business.
Ross the ram is going to have some paint put on his chest,
so that when he's hopefully doing his job successfully,
I'll be able to tell which ewes he's been serving,
which means I'll be able to know
when they're going to lamb in the spring.
And every 17 days, we'll change that to a different colour.
And that means we can tell at lambing
which ewes are going to lamb first,
which ewes are going to lamb second
and which ewes will lamb a little bit later in the third cycle,
according to the colour he's left on their behinds.
Ross was £350.
For me, a very expensive ram,
so I'm hoping he's going to do his job.
Everything about him points to him being a successful ram,
but come spring, we'll see.
This year, Lewis sold around 100 meat boxes,
processed around a tonne of wool
and sold 1,000 hand-knitted products online.
But more lambs will mean he can meet growing demand
for his meat boxes and sheep skins.
It's a risk. We're paying more money to be on this land.
We're putting in expensive rams.
We don't know whether it will work or whether it won't work.
This is the start of next year's business.
This is the start of next year's finances.
So, fingers crossed, the weather will be kind to us
and next year we might even have more grass, a little bit more rain
and everything will go along even better.
For charcutiers Steve and Pete,
Autumn is when they'll source much of their meat
for the coming season themselves.
Wild game makes up around a fifth of their product range
and knowing its provenance is key to their business.
He really does look like he's stalking over there, doesn't he?
He does take it very seriously.
-Is he a good shot though?
-He is a good shot, yeah.
He's a very good shot.
Steve is fully trained and licensed.
He has agreements with local farmers to shoot deer and rabbit
on their land at this time of year.
I think, for me, I want to be involved in every single aspect
of the business and what we do.
You know, the front end of getting the animals and butchery
and production, as well as the business side of it, as well.
I didn't find anything, unfortunately.
-Do you like doing this?
-I do, actually.
And it's kind of one of the reasons why I wanted to do this business,
so it's important that I still get a chance to do it.
And then back to the restaurant to wash dishes.
Anything shot for public consumption needs to be certified
and skinned by a game dealer.
But beyond that, the only major cost to the business is their time.
Which bit has worked best?
Which has been the most successful part?
I'd say the restaurant is the biggest surprise.
The restaurant's doing well now.
It's covering its costs, it's making a small profit
and it's using a lot of our produce.
There are between 60 and 100 people every day
-coming into the restaurant.
So that is, you know, a big percentage of our business now.
What percentage would you say?
I'd say probably about 30%, 40% of our business now.
-Of your turnover?
-That's really fantastic.
We're really happy that we're a year and three weeks in
and we're still open.
Let alone making some money.
Exactly, yeah, yeah.
In fact, this year will be the first they'll be able to take
a modest dividend from the business
and they've begun to look for bigger premises.
Four years in, is this the business that you were hoping
it was going to be?
I'd say it's definitely not the business we were hoping
it was going to be, but it is now the business we want.
We've gone off in all sorts of directions
to get where we are, but we...
Well, I really like where we are and I'm pretty sure Pete does too.
I think we are in a... Yeah, we are in a great place right now.
I can see you thinking about going off to open more.
Is that something you think about?
-What? More restaurants?
All right, go on, then, I'll do it.
But no more than five. Or ten.
I have no idea what you'll find, but we'll be having fun, anyway.
When I met Steve and Pete earlier in the year,
the restaurant was just beginning.
Steve was mastering butchery.
They've come such a long way
and they're actually making an income from this business now.
I think they've got a true entrepreneurial spirit,
and if I came back in a year's time,
I'm quite sure they will have developed much further
and this business is going to keep growing.
Cider producer Tash relies on a single autumn harvest
to keep her production on track,
and every year it's a risky business to run.
Unfortunately, I think we're going to contend with a really bad year.
And the joys of nature,
everything conspired to have a very late blossom.
No apples around, very few bees.
Blossoms weren't actually fertilised
and now the consequence is we've got very few apples.
And I think we're going to be about 70% down on last year,
in terms of crop, which is, you know, quite significant, really,
in terms of how we manage everything going forward.
And a bad harvest could mean the end to any plans for expansion.
There was a very difficult point,
which I think we've been at probably for two years
where you are ready struggling with enormous pressure in terms of
the quantity of product people want, enormous frustration in the fact
that you can't really grow your business
because you cannot reach the capacity that you need to do that
and also the financial pressure of what gives.
It's clear the business needs bigger volumes to survive, long term.
I'm anxious to find out
how Tash's ambitious and expensive expansion project is coming on.
I can't believe you organised the weather again.
-Well, it's always raining. How are you?
-Good to see you.
Looking out over the whole thing,
-it's really beginning to feel like an orchard.
It's actually amazing, the amount of growth we've had this year.
Sadly, there's been no such progress with the new production facility.
Tash had gambled on having it up and running for this year's harvest,
but work hasn't even started after a long delay over
the conditions for their bank loan.
It just taken forever and the whole process.
It's meant basically that we now
have had to shelve any plans of growth for a year,
which is really frustrating.
And presumably you need to pay back banks and things?
Well, for us, the financial burden is really daunting
when you're dealing with a product with very little margin.
And, you know, it's great being entrepreneurial
and having fire in your belly and doing things,
but let's not kid ourselves that our business is on the line,
our home's on the line.
This is my family home, where I've lived.
I would hate to lose this as a place that I can live and work.
There's no safety net, really.
But fortune smiles on the bold.
I just have to go with my instincts on it, and I think it will be good.
So they're doing their best to make the most of what they've got.
These are Bramleys and Katy, actually,
and this will help make our sharper juices.
And, as before, this year's crop will be processed in the old barns.
It is very precarious, isn't it, working on the land,
being reliant on nature?
Totally. And also, with apples,
we'll have some years where we just can't get enough.
For this year's cider production,
they can fall back on some of last year's stored vintage.
But juice is more short lived.
And with output still limited by these compact facilities,
Tash is pushing on with the higher margin products, like cider vinegar.
I think the very nature of having your own business means
you have to be prepared to take risks,
and you must get excited about the risk.
Would you say that it's that that drives you more than cash?
I think it's about the balance in life,
and this allows me to have the excitement, the creativity,
live in a beautiful place, but it does have to stack up.
Devon's rolling countryside and temperate climate
has long provided a living for its people.
And today's generation are continuing to make a living
from this very green, very pleasant land.
By adding a modern twist to traditional materials,
these local entrepreneurs are making products with national appeal,
but with their provenance firmly rooted
in Devon's rich and fertile soil.
'Next time, we're in the remote,
'wild landscape of the Lake District...'
Do you need a hand?
'..following five new businesses...'
Hang on, there, Simon.
'..as they make big life changes...'
-So you're quitting your job.
-Does that feel scary?
'..determined to make a living against all the odds.'
There are two words that I would attach to you - proud and stubborn.
Why did I do that?
Because you're English.
In the foodie county of Devon, Back to the Land shows just how much graft, love, tenacity and skill lies behind every rural business as we follow six of them through the seasons.
Kate Humble is with a cider and drink makers who are trying to reverse the trend of Devon's apple orchard decline as they plough a six-figure sum into a new orchard on their land. She also follows a farming family who have hooked on to the trend for the UK's answer to olive oil, producing their own cold-pressed rapeseed oil. Kate discovers a young lad with no farming background who is running a modern business with traditional Devon sheep breeds and a couple who have invented a way to make wool rock solid and are creating modern innovative furniture products from it.
Award-winning entrepreneur and south Devon resident Geetie Singh-Watson finds how online shopping is bringing our markets closer together and enabling an edible-flower grower to thrive. And two best mates have left their jobs for a life in the country to turn their passion for European cold meats and build their own charcuterie business in Devon's rich food heritage.