James Grant, No2 Pound Street: “Carbon neutral cheese”

04 October 2022, 14:21 PM
  • James Grant, owner of No2 Pound Street, discusses the importance of sourcing cheese sustainably and how we could be seeing carbon-labelling sooner than we think
James Grant, No2 Pound Street: “Carbon neutral cheese”

After the Science of Artisan Cheese Conference, I decided to travel from Bucks to Carlisle and meet Carolyn and Leonie Fairbairn from Thornby Moor. This lovely dairy is set in the heart of the Solway Plain, looking out over the Northern Fells of the Lake District.

The dairy is housed within the outbuildings of the old Crofton Hall Estate near Thursby, eight miles west of Carlisle.

The reason for my journey was meeting Leonie, daughter of Carolyn Faibairn, at the bi-annual SAC*conference. During the course we split into a small field group of cheesemakers, including Leonie, Andrew Hatten and Simon Jones to name a few, and we were then directed to various patches of grass on Jamie Montgomery’s Estate.

I was in the minority as a cheesemonger and was super thrilled to be part of this amazing learning experience given by some of the UKs top professors and scientists.

The professor handed me a piece of earth that had been carefully dug out by the exceptional cheesemaker Andrew Hatten. The purpose was to help understand how earth should be, its connection with invertebrates and herbal leys. Leonie was clearly in her element and the subject matter allowed us to debate at length the virtues of good soil management and why we need to act now to save the planet.

Save the planet? I hear you think… Farmers all over the world are quickly learning to use the soil wisely to grow healthy crops. Finally, there are now incentives to help drive this momentous change in how we approach farming. For far too long farmers have been given bad press for carbon emissions. Do farmers hold the key to storing carbon monoxide and giving the world another chance? Yes, they do…

This is why I travelled hundreds of miles to meet two inspirational ladies that are at one with their product. Their cheese is handmade and the milk is exceptional. Carolyn Fairbairn is 80 years old and continues to make cheese daily with no signs of slowing down.

At Thornby Moor Dairy they only make 20 tonnes of cheese a year, this is a micro cheesemaker. The rare Dairy Shorthorn cows, chosen for their exceptional milk and tolerance for the sometimes harsh Cumbrian landscape, are only testament to how hard the dairy farmers and Fairbairns work to make a genuine and totally delicious product. Their connection with the land, animals and cheesemaking is inspirational.

The thing that struck me is that this is how Carolyn and Leonie have always made their product. They could have easily stood at COP26 and given a damn good presentation on how to protect the land’s diversity by for example allowing the dung beetles to continue to thrive on healthy poo from well-grown, no till, pasture-fed livestock.

We need to really consider where we source produce to line our shelves. In the not-too-distant future, we will be seeing carbon-neutral labelling on our food produce. As a cheesemonger, it is my duty to only sell produce from farms that are achieving this.

There are so many brilliant cheesemakers, cheese farmers and dairy farmers in the UK. Thankfully recognition is being given for carbon-neutral farming, with an incentive (of course). Despite this world-saving method of farming to omit greenhouse gases, there have always been those in touch with our land.

These cheesemakers need to be celebrated. If you have not tried Thornby Moor Dairy’s cheese yet, do it now.

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