We are happy to announce the return of the famous French Dip to The Tavern menu. Our delicious hot sandwich, filled with braised short rib showcases British produce at its very best, haling from Butcher Shop of the Year, Walter Rose. This family-run business know their stuff. Founded in 1847 they have won too many awards to count, their sirloin steak is voted one of the top three in the entire country and they supply beef to the likes of Harrods, Selfridges and incredible chefs such as Tom Kerridge and Hywel Jones. Local farmer Tim Johnson, who produces beef specifically for Walter Rose, is the man to thank. We headed down to Stokes Marsh Farm to meet him…
Please tell us a bit about yourself, your farming background and how Stokes Marsh Farm began?
My father bought the farm back in the 50’s when he was a young man so naturally I wanted to go into the family business and work in the environment that I grew up in.
Why beef farming?
It’s what we have always done and feel passionate about. Beef farming is a part of us in the Johnson family and I could never walk away from it, it’s my life!
Which cow breeds do you have on the farm?
We rear traditional British breeds here – Hereford and Angus. We find that these breeds consistently produce the finest beef.
What else do you produce on the farm?
We grow corn and wheat which we use to feed the animals to supplement their diet throughout the year to keep the flavour of the fat consistent. Also, we use the excess grass in the early summer months to pickle and turn into silage. As well as beef, we also farm sheep (mutton) and lamb on a much smaller scale and we have our resident geese who have been on the farm for generations. Their ancestors were a wedding present for my parents!
What is the most important part to you of running a farm?
By far the welfare of my livestock. First and foremost, we want the animals to live a happy, care-free life. Without this, everything comes crashing down!
You supply beef to Steve Cook, owner of Walter Rose. Please tell us more. What is your secret to excellent beef?
Back in the 70’s a young Stephen Cook approached us wanting to strike up a deal by where he buys our beef on a standing order, rather than at the local Devizes Cattle Market. He made it very clear what he wanted – heifers (females which haven’t had calves) with plenty, but not excessive amount of fat. The heifers are marginally smaller than that the steers or older animals. This meant that the yield and calibration of his steaks and joints would be much better suited to the modern market. Also, the heifers tend to produce a more consistent yield and flavour.
The breeds, diet and environment are all crucial factors in producing excellent beef. Those coupled with the fact that one of the best and most humane slaughter houses just down the roads. Stress free animals means better meat!
What is the future of beef farming?
Very bright! My five sons are growing up, and although I would never force them to go into the family business – I would like to think that they might well follow in their father and grandfathers footsteps. British beef is the best in the world – I honestly think that and it’s something we are famous for. People are once again taking a huge interest in where their food comes from. They are happy to pay for the best eating quality along with the reassuring factor that the animals they are eating lived a care free and happy life!
What’s next for Stokes Marsh Farm?
We are constantly working to make the farm better, to work towards being self-sufficient, greener and utilizing our waste. All whist producing the finest beef and at the end of the day making a living from it.
Beef available in our gobsmackingly good burgers and in our famous French Dip at The Tavern.