The Voice talks to Valley Fest founder and South Bristol butcher Luke Hasell
LUKE HASELL doesn’t live in South Bristol – but he wants to have an impact here. Luke is a farmer, based at Herons Green Farm in the Chew Valley, but for many years he’s been a part of the Bristol food scene.
Meet the farmer who wants you to visit to see how his food is made – there might be a bit of a party going on, mind ...
LUKE HASELL doesn’t live in South Bristol – but he wants to have an impact here. Luke is a farmer, based at Herons Green Farm in the Chew Valley, but for many years he’s been a part of the Bristol food scene. Have you been to Yurt Lush, the quirky Mongolian yurt serving daytime meals in a yard behind Temple Meads station? Or Root, the veg-oriented restaurant set atop Wapping Wharf’s shipping containers overlooking the harbour? Both are collaborations between Luke and Michelin-starred chef Josh Eggleton, who runs the Pony and Trap at Chew Magna (and is, incidentally, a Windmill Hill resident).
More recently, Luke has started a solo venture at Wapping Wharf – Meatbox, a butcher selling only locally-sourced meat from high-welfare farms including his own. If that wasn’t enough, the farm is also home to Valley Fest, the Bristol area’s own family-friendly weekend festival, which is almost upon us (see panel). But all of this almost didn’t happen. Sixteen years ago Luke was an engineer working for the giant Kier Group as a project manager, and about to emigrate to Australia for a new posting.
Then: “My dad suddenly died. There was no question, I moved home to help my mum on the farm,” he said. “Tragically, mum was also diagnosed with cancer, and they passed away within a few years of each other.
“My parents loved the land, they loved sharing food and having a laugh with family and friends. Which is why I did two things when I took over the farm. Firstly, I made it organic. Secondly, I started a festival!”
More than a decade on and Luke has made several of his ambitions reality, and seen consumers become more interested in where their food comes from – particularly their meat. “Organic farming is really important to me,” he said. “We shouldn’t be poisoning the land, farming should be a conversation with nature and done in harmony with the land and wildlife.” Aware that many people are wary about how animals kept for meat are treated, he sells only meat from named farms whose animals are pasture-fed and outdoor-reared. Some. not all, are also organic. “To farm the way that we farm is good for the health of humans and the planet,” he said.
“That’s partly why I do Valley Fest. I want people to think about the environment and where their food comes from. “Having a festival on a working farm means that people can get a better understanding about farming, they can run their hands through the soil. They can do foraging, have a look round the farm, meet the farm animals, pick veg, and enjoy talks and workshops on everything from fermenting to cider-making.
“This is why it’s a great family festival – to show kids where their food comes from and teach them about the land is wonderful – this is the next generation of environmental stewards.” This approach has not gone unnoticed: Luke was nominated for BBC Food & Farming’s Outstanding Farmer of the Year award in 2014.
WIN A FAMILY TICKET
TO VALLEY FEST
But be quick!
Valley Fest, from August 3-5, is a small family-friendly festival set against the backdrop of Chew Valley Lake.
Music highlights this year include St Paul and the Broken Bones, Rae Morris and My Baby.
Kids and adults can meet the farm animals, pick vegetables, learn skills like fermenting and take part in cookery workshops.
There are wacky games like hobbyhorse gymkhana, eating challenges like fluffy bunnies, and a big dose of fancy dress. Sharing food together is also a big part of the ethos, with a fancy dress banquet on Friday night, a giant Midnight Feast on Saturday and a Sunday Picnic involving chefs like Josh Eggleton.
HOW TO WIN
We have a family ticket for two adults and two children under 12 to Valley Fest, worth £110, including camping (but not parking – money raised from that goes to the Teenage Cancer Trust).
To win just tell us: What’s the backdrop to Valley Fest?
Answers by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to 18 Lilymead Avenue BS4 2BX by July 31. Give your name, full address and phone number. BS3 and BS4 residents only.