A Visit To The Award Winning Fairfields Farm Crisps
This month, editor chris mcneill visits his local crisp producer Fairfields farm crisps.
Deep in the heart of rural Essex, close to the Suffolk border, is where you will find the award winning crisp manufacturer Fairfields Farm Crisps. After a short drive along a rugged farm track, surrounded by sprawling potato fields, the modern and thriving factory comes to view. Before even getting out of my car, I can sense I am in for a treat. After meeting with founder Robert Strathern and his colleague Ian Bates , I was kindly offered the factory tour. I was given the full tour, consisting of being shown every detail – from their fields, to the machines in the factory and to the offices to meet the hard working staff. This gave Ian the chance to explain to me how many of their suppliers (all of them in fact) are local to them, not that they have many suppliers considering they grow, sort, cook, flavour and pack their crisps all in house, with their own farm grown potatoes! I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Fairfields Farm is in fact also very conscious of their effects on the planet, and is currently working on an ‘Anaerobic Digestion’ facility on their land. This is where crops are converted into gas and then electricity, which will be used in the various processes on the farm and factory. The farm also utilises solar energy to help power the factory, cold store and offices too.
2016 GREAT TASTE AWARD SUCCESS
This years Great Taste Awards saw Fairfields Farm Crisps win five awards, including one star awards for their lightly sea salted crisps, sea salt and Aspall Cyder vinegar flavour, as well as their sweet chilli and Jackpots mature cheddar and spring onion variety, as well as winning a 2 star award for their Essex Honey and Black Pepper flavoured parsnip crisps. This was an impressive haul, and in fact makes Fairfields the most awarded crisp manufacturer of Great Taste Awards 2016.
Fairfields Farm is run by husband and wife team Robert and Laura Strathern. Both from farming backgrounds Robert and Laura grow potatoes in the Colne Valley, on the Essex Suffolk border, and are the third generation to do so on the family farm. In 2006 Robert and Laura launched Fairfields Farm Crisps, which has grown into a brand synonymous with high quality and great tasting crisps!
In 2008 Fairfields also launched their own fresh potato range of pre-packed and boxed bakers, which has gone from strength to strength across the Essex and Suffolk area. Fairfields pride themselves on being able to show their valued customers which field the potatoes are grown in, and where the potatoes are stored, graded, washed, cooked and bagged– all on the family farm in the village of Wormingford. So whether its handcooked crisps flavoured with natural ingredients sourced from East Anglia, or the freshest potatoes washed and packed ready for your convenience, fairfields farm pride themselves on being potato product experts.
THE CRISP FACTORY
The crisp factory at Fairfields Farm adjoins the washing and packhouse facility. Potatoes are washed and graded before entering the crisp
manufacturing side of the operation. The potatoes are weighed to a set batch size, before being sliced and hand cooked in sunflower oil.
The cooked crisps are then inspected thoroughly before entering the flavouring drum, which applies our range of flavours.
The flavoured crisps are finally weighed and bagged off into 40g or 150g bags before being packed into cardboard cases ready for sale. A simple process, but it takes a whole lot of work to get from a seed potato to a bag of crisps!
Having tried every flavour of crisp that Fairfields Farm Crisps has to offer, I must say, I am a fan, as is the rest of the magazine team. Personally, my favourite flavour is the Lightly Sea Salted, due to my love of the real authentic hand cooked potato taste coming through, stripped back and laid bare only made better by a light salting – a real delight to me, eating and enjoying a crisp in its most basic form. This is also a way for me to test the quality without the hindrance of extra-added flavour. It’s a nice touch to also see the skin left on, which I learnt is due to the fact it harbours many nutrients and flavour – this also gives them a charming farm feel when you first see them come out the packet. A close second best for me was the Essex Honey and Black Pepper Parsnip Crisps – this flavour combination to me was a marriage made in heaven. The taste of parsnip sends your mind to an instant escape to the countryside, at the same time getting a slight kick back to reality from the black pepper but then being left with the slightly sweet note from the Essex Honey – simply wonderful. Another notable flavour that really left me wanting more (and yes, I ate a lot more since!) was the partnership between Fairfields and Adnams – creating the Adnams Ghost Ship flavour crisps. These are moreish and dangerously so, a serious good hearty flavour there and very well enjoyed with a nice ale.