A PROJECT to reintroduce red deer to one of the finest historic farmlands in the region has received national recognition.
Ingram Valley Farm last year invested in new deer handling facilities and has since nurtured a herd of 100 hinds plus calves and three stags on the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland, where red deer first roamed more than 10,000 years ago.
Its diversification project, which could soon see the farm offer deer safaris and sustainable farm tours, has received national acclaim, and been shortlisted in the finals of the UK’s Rural Business Awards (RBAs).
“There are fewer than ten organic deer farms in the country and Ingram Valley Farm is one of them, so we feel incredibly proud to have reintroduced such a strong herd back to this part of the region and been recognised for our achievement,” said Rebecca Wilson, who is a business partner in the farm alongside her husband Ross and father-in-law Johnny.
The Wilsons’ move into red deer farming was supported by the LEADER programme, which funds rural development projects that help boost local tourism, increase farm productivity, and provide rural services or cultural and heritage activities.
Ross, 40, said: “The LEADER scheme helped us improve the overall performance of Ingram Valley Farm. It specifically helped with the development and marketing of our venison, which is now sold online and to local retailers such as Turnbull’s new Northumbrian Food Hall in Alnwick.
“Our venison is an exceptionally healthy, lean meat with a beautiful, natural flavour and the herd is the perfect addition to our pasture fed, outdoor-reared farm.”
Ingram Valley Farm has been shortlisted in the Best Rural Diversification Project category of the RBAs, which celebrate the achievements of rural businesses across the UK.
Awards co-founder Jemma Clifford said: “This year has been an unprecedented challenge for businesses across the country, but we have still had a fantastic amount of entries, showing the true determination of people working in the rural economy.
“On behalf of the RBA team, we want to say well done to Ingram Valley Farm and wish them luck ahead of the national final.”
Ingram Valley Farm, which sits on land formed volcanically more than 480 million years ago, has long been home to sheep, prime lambs, and cattle.
Rebecca added: “One of our longer-term plans is to organise deer safaris for tourists and we have applied for a grant to help build an eco-bunkhouse so visitors can actually stay here and learn more about our sustainable farming practices, heritage preservation and environmental projects.”
The Wilsons’ produce is sold at Turnbull’s Northumberland Food Hall, on the Willowburn Retail Park. Sixth generation butcher Dan Turnbull said: “We are always reassured that the quality and welfare of the venison we receive from Ingram Valley Farm is second to none.
“Our customers love the consistency of the produce that they supply, and we look forward to a long and prosperous partnership.”