Midlands Food Hero – Linda Martin
Tinker-Belle, Thandi and Tiny Tim are having a terrific time on Tatsfield Farm. Linda is thoroughly enjoying herself too. “My husband, Derek, once worked in an abattoir and was horrified at the panic he saw when the animals arrived. On our farm we are determined to make life as nice as possible for our little herd. Cows have feelings and distinct personalities, they are not machines that just stand there munching.”
So while commercial dairy farmers might consider Linda pretty crazy, she makes sure that the babies stay with their mums as long as possible and that the calves all live together once they are weaned. “It rips into my heart to know some calves live in individual pens, fed with a machine with teats. They should be gambolling in the sun with the wind in their tails.” When the cows are about to give birth, they sleep near the house with the donkeys who fiercely protect them from any predators in search of an easy meal.
Naturally, a happy, healthy life means they produce great quality milk. Each morning, the eight girls (some Brown Swiss and some Jersey) arrive of their own accord, to lie about in the herb garden (Tiffany prefers chasing the chickens) until it is milking time. They are looking forward to the snack they have while being milked. First their udders are washed with warm water before the milkers get to work. “I love hearing the guys chatting away to the cows as they work,” laughs Linda. Just in case anything has blown into the milking shed from the farmyard, the milk is strained into big old fashioned urns and set to cool.
At Tatsfield much of the milk is turned into delicious yoghurt, made in the simple century’s old method of heating and cooling, adding culture, keeping warm overnight, before straining off the excess liquid. Interesting flavours are then added. There is homemade apricot jam with flaked almonds, and daughter, Bonny’s, Turkish Delight, coloured with organic beetroot juice rather than artificial colourants. The honey comes from a neighbour and the vanilla is real. “It’s a pity there are no small co-ops to sell this kindly produced milk to” says Linda as Toffee sidles up to nibble her hair, “but I wouldn’t change a thing. I like the gentle rhythms of small scale farming.” Thalita and Treasure couldn’t agree more.
Tatsfield products (including soft cheeses) are available at Dovehouse in Howick and Abundant Wholefoods in ‘Maritzburg.