A COCK crowed as I approached Home Farm, a neat, seven acre set-up outside Overton.
The bird must have been slightly confused, as it was about 10am and dawn had come and gone hours ago – but it added to the scene.
Andy Williams, county councillor for Garden Village, had taken me along to meet owners Dave and Alison Everett, whom he credited as the inspiration behind the monthly Garden Village market in Wrexham.
Andy, 41, said: “The market has been running for about two years now. I set it up with the aim of getting produce in from the surrounding area.
“The focus is on food with a very small travel footprint.
“It came about because I went to Dave to talk about buying chickens. When I saw Home Farm it just sparked something, and I set about organising the market, which takes place at St Margaret’s or outside on the green if the sun’s out.”
Dave, 54, took me on a tour of the chicken pens, the flock making happy chuckling noises as they fed by our feet.
I reflected that, in one fast-food outlet I worked at in my younger days, the chicken, some from reclaimed meat, was raised in Brazil, frozen and freighted to the UK.
Overton’s about 15 minutes drive from Garden Village, meaning the distance from field to plate is tiny so the food is fresh with a minimum of environmental damage.
Much of the produce, including Home Farm’s famous sausages, is made on-site.
“Dave’s dad was a farrier,” said Alison, 52, “but that’s the extent of our farming experience. Dave’s a builder and I was in education. You can blame Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall for this,” she joked. “He made it all look so lovely.”
Alison and Dave hail from Liverpool but came to Wrexham county to pursue a different life, setting up the business five years ago.
And it’s a business, not a hobby farm.
The premises have to pay for themselves but there’s more to it than that.
Alison said: “Partly why we came here was because there was a city farm in Liverpool, and we used to take the school kids. I worked with youngsters who couldn’t cope with academic life.
“But when you brought them to work with the animals, they were like different people. We do run a business, but we also allow school visits.”
The burbling of the chickens gave way to the distinctive gurgle of the turkeys. They looked slim now but by Christmas, they’ll be plump and ready for the table.
Andy said: “You’d be surprised how many youngsters don’t know what a turkey looks like. Ask them where a sausage comes from, and they say ‘the shop’.”
Andy was right – a big survey of children released by the British Nutrition Foundation in June came out with some disturbing results.
Almost a third of primary school children thought cheese grew on plants, one in five said fish fingers came from chicken, one-in-10 secondary school pupils thought tomatoes came from underground and a third of those asked thought pasta came from an animal.
It all sounds a bit comical, but the findings don’t bode well for an understanding of nutrition, animal welfare and the environment.
On Home Farm, the animals roam the field, are kept in pens with room to forage or in sheds on rare occasions.
Ginger the sow, who had a farrow of 12 piglets, was under cover to keep away any inclement weather.
Dave said: “We rear turkeys, geese, ducks, beef, lamb and pork – about the only thing we don’t have is goats. They’re great but difficult to manage. Go away for a day and you find one up a tree!”
Dave and Alison are keen supporters of the Garden Village Market, taking along delicacies like Toulouse sausages (pork, red wine and garlic) and sausages that incorporate local ales.
Dave said: “There’s a real sense of community. We sometimes swap produce ourselves. One lady makes pâté so she came to us for the liver. We don’t grow our own veg so another market holder gave us leeks for a batch of pork and leek sausages.”
Some of the food does go further afield.
The Everetts also count the National Trust among their buyers, and you can find it at Chirk Castle and Powys Castle.
Andy said: “The best thing about this is that you can actually see where the food is coming from. It’s not like battery eggs with thousands of birds living in a cage the size of an A4 piece of paper. After two years, they won’t lay as many eggs so they’ll probably go for animal feed. They’re unlikely to ever see daylight.
“Here you can drive past and see them in their pens scratching around. That’s what local means.”
l Garden Village market runs from 10am to 2pm tomorrow and includes arts and crafts alongside food stalls.