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Feltham’s Farm was awarded the Best British Cheese accolade at the inaugural Virtual Cheese Awards. The virtual event, which took place on 18th July, showed a live audience of over 3,000 a full day of judging from a panel of experts, with over 300 cheeses whittled down to 30 across seven categories. The Renegade Monk soft blue cow’s milk cheese from Feltham’s Farm wowed the judges and secured the title of Best British Cheese. Part of the prize is £4,000 worth of coverage in Speciality Food and its sister consumer title, Great British Food.
Feltham’s Farm is based on 22 acres of organic in Somerset, and run by Marcus Fergusson and Penny Nagle. A course at River Cottage started Marcus’ cheesemaking journey and they sold their first cheese in March 2017.
“Winning this award is huge for a tiny artisan producer like us,” says Marcus. “We are profoundly grateful for the exposure that the Virtual Cheese Awards has brought us and many other artisan cheese producers - we all need all the help we can get right now and we hope that the awards will encourage the public to keep buying artisan cheese from small outlets and not return to the supermarket habits of old!”
Marcus explains how the win helps get business get back on track after lockdown. “We spent most of last year building this new cheese barn and this was the year we were hoping to really expand. We’ve been in a tiny little cheese room and could only make 200 cheeses a week, we’ve now got the capacity to make around 1500 cheeses a week. And then lockdown happened. We were gearing up to do this big push and then everything was on hold. Our orders died overnight. To get this award now is just perfect. Everything has changed since the weekend in terms of how we’re looking at the rest of this year and it’s tremendously exciting.”
The finalist cheeses who won their respective categories were:
Best Cheddar: Creamery Mature cheddar - Dale Farm, Northern Ireland
Best Territorial Cheese: Rutland Red - Long Clawson Dairy
Best Blue cheese: Beacon Blue - Butlers Farmhouse Cheese
Best Enhanced Cheese: Fenugreek Cornish Gouda - Cornish Gouda
Best Speciality Cheese: Ripe Somerset Goat’s cheese - Lubborn Cheese
Best Artisan Hard Cheese: A natural rinded ewes milk cheese - Alsop & Walker
Best Artisan Soft Cheese: Renegade Monk - Feltham’s Farm
Consumer Class: Plaw Hatch Vintage Cheddar - Old Plaw Hatch Farm Cheddar
Sarah de Wit, co-founder of the Virtual Cheese Awards and Cheese & Dairy consultant said, “It was an amazing day and we’re so grateful for everyone who supported our crazy idea to set up a virtual cheese awards back in March. The quality of British cheeses entered into the awards was amazing and the judges had a tough time narrowing it down to just one cheese. Renegade Monk is a very worthy winner and a fantastic example of a small artisan cheesemaker that is reinventing what a British cheese should be. We really are leading the world with our exceptional cheesemakers and we’re super proud to shine a light on them. All we ask is that consumers go out and buy these cheeses and support our British cheese industry.”
Holly Shackleton, editor of Speciality Food magazine said, “I am delighted to be part of this brilliant initiative to support and elevate British cheese during a challenging time for the industry. This exciting new virtual format enabled a great day of judging, celebration and discovery, and really shone the spotlight on our top-performing cheesemakers who thoroughly deserve higher recognition. We are committed at Speciality Food to supporting the British cheese industry - I now look forward to delivering some valuable promotion to the winner across our print and digital platforms. Congratulations to the winners, the organisers, and indeed everyone who participated to make this day a success.”
All profits from the event will be given to the Specialist Cheesemakers Association and RABI (Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) so they can continue to support British farmers and dairy producers.