South Paddocks

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Three years ago they bought a smallholding – now the Cooper family make their living selling their nationally award-winning meat products

The South Paddocks sausage rolls are bestsellers

It all started with a bacon roll at Stock Gaylard Oak Fair. The meat was quite simply among the best I have tasted, and I wanted to find out more about the people selling it – South Paddocks, a smallholding at Winterborne Houghton.

Katie Cooper, owner of South Paddocks, at the Sturminster Newton Country Market

The business was launched in 2020, and there is currently a waiting list for both its pork and goat meat. I met owner Katie Cooper at the weekly Country Market in Sturminster Newton (each Tuesday morning in The Exchange) to find out the back story of that bacon roll:
‘My husband Matthew is a builder and I’m a florist – we’re really not from a farming background! We also had a part-time catering business and were fed up with the poor quality of meat that we were seeing. Eventually we decided to rear our own animals. We bought our smallholding in April 2020 and started out with two pigs, two Boer goats and four alpacas. As always seems to happen, things escalated! Our pigs are rare breed Oxford Sandy and Blacks, and we have Huacaya alpacas. Our pigs are all pedigree and reared by us. We have won a Highly Commended in the Love Local Awards and then last month discovered we are one of just two finalists for The British Pig Association’s Pedigree Pork Producer Of The Year award.
‘We were absolutely speechless!
‘At the start we took our time to pick the right breed, before we got the first pair. We then took our very first lot of pork to the Great Dorset Steam Fair and it flew off the stall! I remember thinking to myself “This is going to be alright!”
‘News spread fast about the taste, just by word of mouth. Now I bake sausage rolls at home and sell them, and we also have fresh quiches made with our bacon. There’s a waiting list for our pork, which is a nice reassurance that things are working. We do sell from the farm gate but by pre booking only – we are a working farm, and our “team” is just us; me, Matthew and our three children!
‘Our Marmite and cheese sausage rolls are our best sellers. People also like the fresh quiches – and our goat meat. Generally we’re not used to eating goat in the UK, though some people might have had “something tough” on holiday. But the Boer goats produce excellent meat and we have a waiting list for that too.
‘We do a great range of sausages – smoky maple and chilli, pork and apple, old English, marmalade, red onion chutney and sweet chilli. We’re also doing a custom-made sausage for Christmas which is cranberry, chestnut and sage.’
The South Paddocks meat is currently processed within 15 miles of the smallholding – even so, the Coopers are planning to have their own butchery on site next year, bringing the lifecycle of their product even closer to home.

Petal with her six chunky piglets

The alpaca side
Katie’s stall is also full of alpaca socks and woolly gifts including bird feeders. She works in collaboration with three other alpaca farms in Dorset to produce and sell the items as another offshoot of her business, both at local country markets and on Etsy (they’re great Christmas gift ideas).
However, it has not all been easy going.

Boer goat Celeste with her twins

,Starting a new business is always a steep learning curve, Katie acknowledges.
‘Initially we fundamentally didn’t know the numbers of the breed, how many we should have – especially with the cost of feed. Now we know that there is a demand for our meat, we can build up the herd. It’s only really this year that we have had enough to sell. We don’t stock farm shops (even though we are asked) because we don’t have enough to be consistent suppliers – we have deliberately taken things very slowly. But we are proud that it has worked – and worked with our small numbers.
‘And we’re not farmers, we’re not from fourth generation farming families or anything like that. Yet we have been successful.
‘The simple fact that people come back to us after tasting our meat is wonderful.
‘I can look around proudly now and say “we reared that; we did that.” And we learned it all on the job. We learned fast that if you look after your animals, the meat looks after itself.’
Katie says that choosing a rare breed goes much deeper than picking a pretty animal:
‘People appreciate the rare breeds because of the flavour – our processes are much slower then is typical in modern farming but it’s completely worth it because the flavour is there.
‘We are just a family of five, and we do it all – from rearing our animals, to packing meat orders, baking the produce and selling it. It’s been a whirlwind, but we are living our dream.’

southpaddocks.co.uk

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