Posted 17th Oct 2014
Flour is one of the core ingredients in any baker's cupboard, and for National Baking Week (13th - 19th October) we met up with Doves Farm to find out more about their innovative flour
In the 1970s, Michael Marriage started his organic journey, turning away from the intensive agro chemical and fertiliser approach to farming that had been dominating the industry. Instead, Michael opted for the reverse tactic, turning one acre of his family's 350-acre farm into an organic haven and, along with his wife Clare, began the painstaking journey of converting the independent retailers in Wiltshire into organic buyers.
With 200 years of milling behind him, mostly in Essex before his father moved to Doves Farm in 1958, Michael wanted to maintain the beauty, wildlife and ecosystem of the farm, meaning his only option was to go organic, a choice that spurred years of innovative milling. His one acre in hand, Michael and Clare set up a stone mill in the barn of their new organic patch, with Michael climbing a step ladder with a sack of grain on his back and pouring it in the top by hand, while Clare weighed flour into small paper bags – all meticulous and back-breaking work. Their spark of an idea then had to sell.
Piling their bags of wholemeal organic flour into their cars, the couple trawled around independent retailers in order to drum up sales for their relatively unknown product. However, with independent retailers going out of business so quickly at the time, they knew they had to target supermarkets. Much like with their earlier attempts, their organic flour was met with speculation and not many supermarket flour buyers knew what to think of the pair.
Having the Soil Association backing the farm and being only the fourth company to receive the Soil Association's organic approval, meant that there was credibility to their product and soon a loyal fan base developed. Not long after they started milling, they also introduced gluten-free grains, which much like organic flour, was not readily available and helped Doves Farm to win over another set of customers.
A strong and innovate brand, Michael and Clare created products that fit with their ethos and their family of customers in mind and, in 1995, Michael travelled to Canada where he met a spelt producer. He brought spelt seeds back to the UK and began growing them, shocking even himself at how well it took off and they began looking into more interesting flavours with better nutritional value. Despite their drawbacks, which was the reason they weren't a popular grain, such as their lower crop yield, Doves Farm began championing more diverse grains.
Their most recent venture saw them move into a range of organic flapjacks and cereal bars, all carrying the Fair Trade mark, something that the couple were passionate about introducing into their products. With the heart of their business being organic farming, Michael and Clare understand the importance of maintaining fair and sustainable agricultural systems. Something they will continue to support as they grow their organic empire.
Doves Farm products can be found in Ocado, Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tesco and from their website www.dovesfarm.co.uk.
By Lauren Morton
Images Courtesy of Doves Farm