Gold for Dartmoor in the National Farming Awards

3 December 2019

Mat Cole, reflects on the success of Dartmoor Farmers linking sustainable production with the iconic Dartmoor landscape.

Dartmoor farmers are celebrating after winning Gold in the Sheep Innovator category of the National Farming Awards held at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham. As a Dartmoor farmer I was delighted to be there to accept this award.

Over 700 farmers and industry professionals attended to celebrate the achievements of British farmers across the agricultural industry. As well as categories for beef and sheep the awards cover a broad church from technology and innovation to students and even farming heroes.

Mat Cole accepting Gold at the National Farming Awards.

I am very proud to receive this award which I accept on behalf of the Dartmoor Farmers Association who work so hard to supply our niche product. In uncertain times innovation is even more critical. We are a group of farmers looking to add value to a natural quality product and we have the vehicle now to continue driving it forward.

In 2007 a small group of likeminded farmers (including myself) helped set up the Dartmoor Farmers Association with the support of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales with the aim of promoting the link between sustainable upland livestock production and the environment. Its primary aim was to market the beef and lamb produced within Dartmoor and to develop new markets for producers. This celebrated the 6000 years of pastoral activity on Dartmoor and promoted the relationship between the landscape, environment and local farms.

Since those early days Dartmoor Farmers has grown and in 2017 a new supply chain was established with the national supermarket Morrisons. This was facilitated by Prince Charles and the Duchy of Cornwall and I was delighted to play a key role in discussions. The scheme involves farmers supplying 325 finished lambs a week marketed by the company under its ‘The Best’ range branded as Dartmoor Lamb. Currently five different lamb products appear in 42 south western stores and this is due to be expanded to another 25 outlets over the winter period.

Dartmoor Farmers. Photo: Mat Cole

Although we still have our individual farm businesses what is different now for Dartmoor Farmers is that we are working together to secure a new premium market and with it our future. We are engaging with the most important partner in the supply chain, the customer and demonstrating the relationship between our farms and the special landscape of Dartmoor through the marketing of our ranges.

Suppliers of lamb must farm within the National Park and there is an emphasis on extensive management systems which should be based on native breeding stock born, raised and finished on Dartmoor. The Association has received long term help from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and the Duchy of Cornwall along with the Dartmoor Hill Farm Project which supported the development of the company. His Royal Highness has endorsed the Dartmoor Farmers brand and taken a keen interest in the co-operatives development.

This award is testament to the spirit of collaboration, the recognition that as farmers we owe the fantastic Dartmoor landscape the very best we can offer.  Too often the food we buy is anonymous meat, together we are striving to connect produce to place, from the dinner plate to Dartmoor.

By Mat Cole,

Dartmoor Farmers Association