Featured Supplier – Buttervilla
As Caroline Quentin’s ‘Cornwall’ programme continues on ITV, look out for one of our fantastic suppliers, Buttervilla, who will be appearing in the upcoming episodes. Situated on the historic Port Eliot estate, Buttervilla Farm nestles in a beautiful valley a mile from St Germans and two miles from the South Cornwall coast. As well as being home to the most beautiful B&B, the farm also makes up one third of Funky Leaves. Together with Keveral Farm and Skye Grove, micro leaves, herbs, funky leaves, vegetables, fruits and edible flowers are all hand grown organically to the very finest standard.
We work very closely with Buttervilla, they supply most of our fruit and vegetables. Our chefs particularly love their tomatoes and herbs and say they’re very flexible. If we want something, they always come up trumps with growing it!
We enjoy promoting our suppliers, so to celebrate their TV debut we interviewed owner Rob Hocking to ask those all important questions. Here’s what he had to say…
Have your family always lived and worked in Cornwall?
Yes, for 10 generations at least. The family tree for my mother’s side, the Pengelly’s, is well documented back to around 1620, and most of them lived in Looe and worked as fisherman and sailors. There was at least one pirate, “One Eyed Jake” from the 1700’s. Maybe that’s why I have always had a bit of the rebel spirit! My father’s family the Hocking’s also have a long seafaring history and came from Mevagissy. My grandfather Hocking came to Looe in 1908 to manage the sardine factory. They were called sardines before they were known as pilchards, because much of the catch was preserved in barrels and exported to Italy, so my family have had very long standing relationship with Italy which has continued with my relationship with Fifteen and their strong Jamie inspired Italian cuisine.
How long has Buttervilla been in existence?
My family – Gill my wife and our three children Jess, Rachel and Harry have lived here for 21 years. The children have now flown the nest that is apart from Harry, who lives nearby with his partner Tamara and my first darling grandchild William, and works with me here on the farm. Buttervilla Farm, I have been told by Peregrine the Earl of St Germans, is one of the oldest houses on his wonderful Port Eliot estate, home of the magical Port Eliot Festival www.porteliotfestival.com Parts of the old farmhouse have walls several feet thick, which keeps it wonderfully cool in summer but freezing during cold winter days.
What makes the land in South Cornwall so good for growing vegetables?
The area around us here in South East Cornwall is a long established growing area. Downderry, a couple miles away on the coast, has a tradition for growing early potatoes and the nearby Tamar Valley was once a centre for small horticulture. In the 1950’s there were more than 150 small growers producing superb fruits such as tomatoes and strawberries. Unfortunately due to modern industrial farming methods there is now only a handful of small scale growers still working in the area. Most of the small farms have been swallowed up to create much bigger holdings, farmed by less people and much bigger machinery.
What made you come up with funky leaves?
We nicked the term from Jamie, who used it in a recipe. We have been working with Fifteen since they opened and it seemed appropriate for the salad leaves we produce. The range of things we grow has grown with us and now leaves are just one of the things we produce. We are now known to our chefs as Buttervilla Growers because we are a loose cooperative of small self-employed certified organic growers who market together under the Buttervilla brand.
You’re known as Mr Fruit – is it hard growing fruits in Cornwall?
Developing organic methods of growing great fruit that tastes like it used to years ago has been a long and sometimes difficult task. I call myself an old hippie, I guess because we have been growing our own food since the early seventies and have always lived a somewhat alternative lifestyle here in Cornwall. I remember growing early potatoes in bags of leaf mould that I collected from the deciduous woodlands when we lived in in the Glynn Valley during the seventies. Back breaking work, but it somehow felt worth it when we ate those creamy little gems at Easter, it seemed like the first taste of the approaching new season. Some people think I am a bit cranky, as I spend long hours online searching the world for the right heritage tomato seeds to test grow, and often then discard, as not tasting good enough for my chefs, or hunting out old varieties of strawberries from France, who’s taste stayed with me from memories of family holidays, driving around France buying food to cook at the gites we rented. But now the amazing feedback I have had from some of the best chefs in the world, who have sought out our produce, has justified all the work.
What are you growing this season?
A very wide range of produce. Our amazing heirloom tomatoes form the heart at Buttervilla farm along with strawberries, raspberries and range of other vegetables. The other growers in our community grow over 40 different crops. Sean at Keveral Farm is Mr Leaves and produces some of the finest and often wacky leaves and edible flowers you will see anywhere. New for 2012 is Gill’s Funky Granola, we have a B&B and offer a local produce breakfast, and our guests rave about the granola which my wife Gill makes. She has developed the recipe over many years, it’s dehydrated and not cooked in an oven so is a raw food, with all the health benefits that brings, but like all Buttervilla produce most importantly tastes really yummy.
What’s special about Cornish produce?
Organic is very important for us although we do not shout about that aspect, in fact we do not even put organic on our invoices, believing that it would distract from the fact that what we offer is all about taste first and foremost. Organic is so important because it means sustainable and that should be a keyword for all of us. The planet just cannot survive if we all continue to exploit its resources and not look to a sustainable future. I love my life here, it’s a joy to live and work in such a beautiful place and I will muster all my energies into preserving the environment so that there will be a future for the county, my children and grandchildren that is pure and sustainable.
How would you define your philosophy to food?
”Live like you are going to die tomorrow, Farm like you’re going to live forever” – you may have heard this before but in today’s climate of often unsustainable agricultural practice it rings so true.
If you’d like to know more about Buttervilla Farm B&B or Funky Leaves you can visit the website at http://www.buttervilla.com/index.html
A massive thank you to Rob for taking the time to speak to us all the way from Australia where he is about to become a Granddad! Congratulations!