An interview with Jonny Crickmore: farmer and maker of Baron Bigod cheese

Baron Bigod's maker Jonny CrickmoreBrief synopsis of your business & career?
I am Jonny Crickmore, dairy farmer and cheese maker of the UKs only raw milk Brie Baron Bigod, from the Waveney valley,Bungay,Suffolk . I started working on leaving school at my family farm (called Fen Farm) and in 2010 me and my wife Dulcie decided to take the bull by the horns and look into ways of adding value to our product milk.

What made you get into doing what you do?
Another price reduction on our milk, and getting fed up with saying how bad dairy farming is in the UK. I think that was a point in my life where I was craving for a new challenge.

What is your philosophy for your food/business?
Creating a product where we have total control over the whole process from growing the grass to feed our cows to selling our cheese to some of the top shops and restaurants in the UK. We also put a lot of effort into making cheese with great milk, we believe in if you have fantastic ingredients your most of the way there!

Describe a typical working day.
Start at 5.30am, adding starter cultures to the milk, and milk transfer via gravity from the dairy to the bire making building, being part of the cheese making team through the day as well as running Fen Farm, depending on days, I could be milking the cows, welding a gate, working on the farm or turning Baron Bigod’s (not all at the same time)!

What’s the best part of your job? And do you have a favourite memory from work?
The best part of the job is feed back from the customers that our cheese tastes great, it’s massive job satisfaction. At the same time also help calve a cow. There’s nothing more pleasing than to see a new calf flopping around in the yard when you get up.
A favourite memory , there are so many. Probably after 3 years of learning and building our cheese making building and then the first day we made Baron Bigod and it all came together so well so quickly.

When you are at home what is your staple dish for the family?
We all like eating being farmers, I guess a roast joint of lamb slow roasted with rosemary and garlic, some fresh mint from the garden and new potatoes with gravy.

What is your favourite place to go eat (if you’re not eating at yours!)?
We love going to The Castle Inn in Bungay , great food and passionate about good local produce.

Do you have any other hidden foodie gems you think are worth people knowing about – shops, producers or otherwise?
Suffolk has many, it is a foodies heaven, a trip to Peasanhall to Emmetts Store where they make the famous Suffolk Black Bacon. A trip further down the road to Orford’s Smoke house or Pump Street Bakery.

Jonny making Baron BigodDo you have a favourite cheese at the moment? If so, why is it your favourite?
At the moment I’m loving Kirkhams Lancashire, it has so much depth of flavour! A close second has to be Martin Gott’s St James.

If you had to choose a drink to go with cheese what would it be? and why?
I’m not much of a drinker but a good French Red with a some over mature Baron Bigod Brie with some homemade bread works a treat!

Where do you look for inspiration in your business?
People who have passion in what they do, I so enjoy working with people who love their job. If you believe in what you do and keep pushing it, it’s amazing where you end up!

What couldn’t you live without? (ingredient or equipment!)
Dishwasher, is that the easy way out of this question!

What is the best success you’ve had with your product?
A difficult question, William and Kate having some Baron Bigod on their cheese board in Cambridge?, Radio 4 farming today? probably the honour to host 2015’s SCA farm walk has to be top!

What is your plans for the future?
Perfect Baron, make a incredible raw cultured butter (now available!) and start an espresso drive through chain with raw milk and Pump Street bear claws! Retire at 45 ?

You can buy Baron Bigod and Fen Farm’s raw milk butter online here.

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