For this edition of Taking Time, we spoke to owners of award-winning Fen Farm Dairy, Jonny & Dulcie Crickmore. Based in Suffolk, Fen Farm Dairy are the makers of the UK’s best cheese of the year 22/23, Baron Bigod. Most cheese and dairy produce is made away from the farm but Fen Farm are an exception, controlling the whole process from start to finish, so we’re thrilled to share this conversation with another much loved & prestigious British brand.
Please can you start by telling us a bit about yourself, the background of Fen Farm Dairy and how it became the business it is today?
I’m a 3rd generation dairy farmer, farming along the Waveney Valley. In 2011, we began selling raw milk from a garden shed at the front of the farm, before bringing in the UK’s first milk vending machine. Our cheesemaking adventure followed this, and we set out our goal to make a Brie in the UK that was as good as that made by the French, something that wasn’t yet being done. Production of Baron Bigod began in 2013, having taken help from a French Cheesemaker and support from many others in the industry. We had a herd of traditional Holstein cows (the black and white ones!), but these were not the best for cheesemaking. With our goal in sight, we travelled to France to purchase 70 Montbeliarde cows, who produce milk with much better cheesemaking characteristics.
What does a typical day involve?
The cows are milked twice daily, every day. The milk goes into a tank, then direct to the cheese production facilities which are located next to the parlour. The milk only has to travel a matter of metres and is always fresh and undamaged. As well as our cheese, we also make butter, yoghurt and cultured cream here on the farm.
Alongside milking, our farm team feed and care for our livestock, as well as carrying out maintenance projects and looking after the land. Our office team looks after a variety of areas including accounts, customer relations, sales and orders. They work alongside our dispatch team, who work hard to dispatch all of our produce to our range of customers.
What makes Fen Farm Dairy different from other dairy producers?
Being both a farm and food producer allows us to oversee the whole process, which makes us quite unique as usually it is one or the other. When products are made using ingredients also produced on site, the food usually tastes better. For example, fish eaten close to the harbour tastes better, as do locally grown vegetables.
Fen Farm products have won multiple awards, most recently Baron Bigod named as the best cheese for 2023. What are some of your proudest moments since the business started?
Over the past 10 years we have got our cheese into many great shops and establishments, as well as in Europe and now the US. However, what I am most proud of is our team. They’re all passionate about what they do and focused on achieving our goals – having a great team is a key factor in allowing us to do what we do.
What would be your favourite Peter’s Yard cracker to pair with the award-winning Baron Bigod?
My favourite Peter’s Yard cracker is the Rye & Charcoal Sourdough Cracker. These are great with Baron and a little honey on top.
Discover more about Fen Farm Dairy here.