MADE IN SHEFFIELD: Pig farm hogging the quality awards

Moss Valley Fine Meats at Povey Farm Stephen Thompson at the farm with his wife Karen.
Moss Valley Fine Meats at Povey Farm Stephen Thompson at the farm with his wife Karen.
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Pig farmer Stephen Thompson lives with his family in idyllic Derbyshire countryside on land worth £2million, in a farmhouse dating back to the 14th century.

But 2,500 pigs keep them busy from dawn until dusk, seven days-a-week, as well as deliveries to 50 restaurants, cafes and food outlets across Sheffield.

And at this time of year there’s 200 acres of harvesting to squeeze in.

And sometimes, like last Sunday at Sharrow Vale market, they run a stall, all day in the blazing sunshine, standing next to a barbecue.

And as any self-employed person knows, if something goes wrong it’s your responsibility - as happened one New Year’s Eve when the lights went out and Stephen missed a party to fix them.

Then there’s the smell...

Butcher John Myers at Moss Valley Fine Meats.

Butcher John Myers at Moss Valley Fine Meats.

So, not a job for everyone.

But when you’re fourth generation and the life is ingrained, you just get on with it.

Stephen, aged 56, said: “If there’s a rainstorm when we’re cutting barley it can cost £3,000.

“All you can do is sit there and watch it go over. But three years ago we had the best crops ever.

Povey Farm has views of idyllic Derbyshire countryside towards Coal Aston.

Povey Farm has views of idyllic Derbyshire countryside towards Coal Aston.

“Either way, we work seven days-a-week on the pigs. Drop harvesting in, from July until the end of September when we bring the crops in and it goes mad.

“Last night we worked until 11pm and found the water had failed in one of the sheds. You can’t leave that.

“When prices are in the doldrums I can wake up in the night worrying about paying the bills. But Karen reminds me we’ve got £2milion worth of land.

“And I couldn’t work for someone else.”

Stephen Thompson at Sharrow Vale Market, proudly showing his Made in Sheffield licence.

Stephen Thompson at Sharrow Vale Market, proudly showing his Made in Sheffield licence.

For her part, Karen, aged 54, loves the rural life.

“It’s nice just being able to walk out to work, and I do appreciate the countryside.

“I like working with animals - on the whole, they are less demanding than people.”

Povey Farm is at the end of a winding, mile-and-a-half of single track road off the Bochum Parkway at Norton.

The farm is in Derbyshire but the road is in Sheffield and it has an ‘S’ postcode, a requirement of Made in Sheffield membership.

It has been in the family since 1890, but the deeds go back to 1601.

Pig pens at Povey Farm.

Pig pens at Povey Farm.

A Sheffield University survey dated the timbers to 1350, a time in the Middle Ages when the black death was rampant.

Legend has it the farm belonged to local landowners the Sitwells but had to be sold to pay gambling debts.

The Thompsons started a 50-strong pig unit in 1980 and have been expanding it ever since.

As a business it has gone from selling one animal every three weeks, to 110 a week, says Stephen.

It is also ‘biosecure’. No new pigs have been brought in since 2002 - only sperm from a male which is screened weekly for disease.

Today, the farm also has butchery employing two.

Planning permission has been granted to expand the butchery and develop a ‘charcuterie’ making cured meats and items such as black pudding.

They also want to export.

It would be a second attempt after the foot and mouth crisis of 2003 put a halt to overseas shipments of British meat for two years.

It’s clear there are always risks in farming and hard work is guaranteed.

But despite, and maybe because of, the life, it seems Stephen Thompson almost always has a smile on his face.

Food producers have a big appetite for Made in Sheffield

Question: Name Sheffield’s top three best known food producers.

Hendo’s at number one obviously. Our Cow Molly at number two and Moss Valley Fine Meats at number three?

Dairyman Eddie Andrew and pig farmer Stephen Thompson are old mates and they both understand that “You have to get yourself out there,” as Stephen puts it.

That means promotion - from Twitter to entering awards. And when one joined the Made in Sheffield club five years ago the other swiftly followed.

Stephen said: “It’s such a good mark of quality, it gets us into places.”

That includes Sheffield’s best restaurant, Rafters.

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Moss Valley Fine Meats at Povey Farm

Moss Valley Fine Meats at Povey Farm

Moss Valley Fine Meats at Povey Farm.

Moss Valley Fine Meats at Povey Farm.

Stephen Thompson at the farm with his wife Karen.

Stephen Thompson at the farm with his wife Karen.