TMC IN THE PRESS
Farmers Mart Magazine Jun/July 2021
The direct approach has taken John back to where he belongs.
Chris Berry talks with John Bell of Tunstall Road Farm and TMC Butchers.
Going back to his roots was a yearning for John Bell, harking back to his days as a child on the family farm in Weardale.
"I grew up on our mixed farm that had been in my family for generations and had always had native breeds. Our sheep were North of England Mules put to the Suffolk tup. I've always had a career away from farming and it was one of the things I missed.'
'I was hankering to get back into it and the purchase of Tunstall Road Farm near Catterick gave Helen and I the opportunity. We'd bought Manor Farm in Newton Le Willows first in 2009 but it was Tunstall Road Farm that we purchased in 2013 that gave us the facilities we needed to house the animals and drive the farm.
John's career has been in commodity trading in the City and in Geneva. As such he understands about markets and about supply and demand. He realised that what he would need to make his return to farming work properly was a business model, something that would work for him and Helen.
'We knew that for our scale we would have to go direct to the consumer with produce that customers would enjoy for all the right reasons and that is how Tunstall Meat Company was born.'
'I had always been interested in native heritage breeds and that's where we headed on cattle, sheep and pigs. We also decided that our farming operation and our media presence would major on animal welfare, traceability, farming in as environmentally friendly a way as possible - as well as providing meat with real taste and flavour through amazing marbling that only comes with the maturity of the animal.'
'We also decided that going direct would, in our case, mean opening up our own butcher's shop. We are really passionate about local produce and local retail - and we were immensely fortunate that a good friend we have know for the past 20 years, Robert Hendrix, was looking for a new challenge at just the time we needed someone to make the selling direct part of our business happen in the best way possible.'
'It's alright doing everything right on the farm, but that has to be backed up and enhanced by your sales side - and for us that was specifically getting the butchery right. It's called TMC which stands for Tunstall Meat Company and is based in Richmond.'
Robert Hendrix is a Dutchman with an impeccable record in butchery, being a chef and running major outfits elsewhere. He has been executive head chef on cruise ships and was executive head chef at Newcastle United FC for ten years.
'Robert knew exactly how to take our native breed heritage beef, lamb and pork to the next level utilising the quality of the meat and the traceability values. Everything we rear goes through the shop and Robert is now a director of TMC that also sees us fulfilling an increasing online sale.'
'Our business had been growing year on year but when lockdown came last year our sales went through the roof. The demand for local produce and local delivery was higher than before, and our nationwide sales took off too as people looked for what they really wanted, good quality, well reared heritage produce with real taste.
Belted Galloways and Herefords form the heritage beef offerings. John has 10 pedigree Belted Galloway sucklers and 15 pedigree Herefords along with 25 Hereford x Friesians.
'We bull everything naturally' says John. 'And we keep them out as long as we can. This last winter the Belted Galloways were out until early January and the Herefords until mid-December. We aim to have the Belties finished around 30 months and the Herefords between 24-48 months which assures the marbling we're looking for and therefore the flavour that our customers always comment on.'
'We're producing all our own pedigree replacements. If demand exceeds our supply for the shop and online sales we sometimes top up with Belted Galloway and Hereford stores through great contacts we have made which ensures everything is to our standard.'
The sheep operation includes a pedigree flock of 56 Hampshire Down breeding ewes and a terminal flock of 80 Hampshire Downs put to the Texel X Cheviot tup.
'We lamb 35-40 pedigrees in December so that we have spring lamb ready for TMC with the rest of the pedigrees lambing in March and the crosses in March and April. We're again providing all of our pedigree replacements and any surplus we sell to other pedigree breeders.'
Berkshires are the chosen breed for John and Helen's pig enterprise which currently runs to 14 sows of which 9 are pedigree and the rest Berkshire X.
'We keep anything from the litters that is good enough for breeding and tend to put the sows in pig in pairs. We are now one of the biggest Berkshire breeders in the country and as such we are very conscious of maintaining bloodlines.'
'Freight train was one line that was down to only 4 boars left in the country, so we have worked with the breed society and other breeders and we have sold three this year and have helped take it to 11 boars. Their pork is succulent and really in demand, so I can see the breed growing again.'
John and Helen's arable acreage is farmed on a contract basis.
'We take the straw for the livestock and put back the muck on the land,' says John. 'We use cover crops and we are concerned with improving the soil structure. We are using clover to fix nitrogen and increase protein; we are putting kale into old pastureland as a break crop; and we follow with 10-15 acres of kale that we grow for winter forage for the cattle with herbal leys. It all helps with our experimenting in cutting feed costs. The pigs are rotated around the grassland.'
'We went into Mid-Tier Stewardship in January and have wild birdseed mixture going in and grass flower margins. We are determined to do everything we can to be as environmentally sustainable as possible.'
Helen is a farmer's daughter from Catterick. Her parents were arable and pig farmers.
Their farming team includes farmer's son Sam Lumb, farm manager, who is from Keighley; and assistant farm manager Megan Mulholland.
By Chris Berry
We were delighted to be chosen as farm of the week in the recent 'Country Week' magazine of the Yorkshire Post - published 27th March 2021.
The article read as follows;
Native heritage breeds are the driving force behind John and Helen Bell's North Yorkshire farming and butchery enterprise.
Working over three sites, Tunstall Road Farm in Catterick and Manor Farm in Newton Le Willows and Tunstall Meat Company (TMC) butcher's shop in Richmond, the business has been a return to agriculture for Weardale born farmer's son John.
Following a career in the City and overseas which took him away from agriculture for many years, John said he always wanted to return to farming.
"One of the the things I had missed most was farming and the countryside. I grew up around native breeds. My dad had Mules that were put to a Suffolk tup on his mixed farm. I had always been interested in heritage breeds and had a hankering to get back to them when the time was right."
Manor Farm was bought in 2009 with Tunstall Road Farm added in 2013, running to 550 acres across the two farms. John said buying the second farm was a decisive move to grow their livestock enterprise the way he and Helen wanted.
"We bought Tunstall Road Farm by auction from North Yorkshire County Council and that allowed us to house the animals, expand our numbers and drive our livestock farming interests."
John and Helen said they found making a success of native breeds was by a 'field to fork' approach rather than selling through livestock markets.
"We found that 90 percent of the beef cattle being sold through livestock markets was Limousin cross cattle and we realised we could never compete on that level. so we decided to major in grass-reared native breeds, fantastic animal welfare, traceability and local.
"We also realised that if we were ever going to make a business model that worked, we had to go direct to the customer."
John said a friend, Robert Hendrix, steered them in the direction of opening the Richmond butcher's shop in 2018, where they now trade as TMC Butchers.
"Robert was executive head chef with Newcastle United Football Club for 10 years and had been looking for a new challenge."
"Helen and I hadn't known how to take our plans to the next level and he did, utilising the quality of the meat and it's traceability. Robert set up the shop and is now Director of our butchery side of the business, which has grown steadily through local trade but also online sales as customers have realised the better taste offered by heritage breeds."
John said the prospects for the future of the farm and the butchery business go hand in hand.
"When customers try our beef, lamb or pork they tell us the taste is amazing and keep coming back.
Everything is dictated by how fast we can grow, as we always want to be supplied by our own livestock.
There is such a demand for local produce, local delivery and provenance right now and we are really passionate about supporting people who want to shop local."
John oversees the farming operation with farm manager Sam Lumb, a farmer's son from Keighley and Assistant Farm Manager Megan Mulholland from South Africa.
John said the farm's focus is all about supplying the right stock, bred in the most natural way for the butchery.
"We started out small scale and we are still a relatively small livestock farm.
"It's all about doing everything right on the farm including improving our soil structure, using clover to fix nitrogen and increase protein, growing kale as winter forage for the cattle and the use of cover crops including spring barley to cut our feed costs."
Pedigree Belted Galloways and Herefords along with Hereford cross Friesians make up the suckler herd that runs to around 50 breeding cows and followers. John said that their aim is always to keep them our on grass as long as is it possible.
"It's Sam's decision when stock is ready and his judgement is based on ensuring we maintain the same level of consistency throughout.
"Our aim is to have the Herefords finished between 22-28 months and the Belties at around 30 months.
"The correct ageing assures that marbling and flavour."
In keeping with the Bell's farming ethos, John said they bull naturally rather than using AI.
"We buy bulls privately and produce all of our own pedigree replacements for the suckler herd.
"We are not aiming to produce the pedigree bulls to sell to other breeders, our focus is supplying TMC.
"Hampshire Down ewes are the preferred breed for lamb production with both a pedigree flock and a terminal flock where the Texels are put to a Hampshire Down tup.
Sam said the breed performs well off the farm's 260 acres of grassland and fit well with the farm's lambing programme.
"We lamb 35 - 40 of the pedigree ewes in December for the spring lamb market through the shop.
"The Hampshire Down lamb is renowned for being quick to suckle" he said.
John said the outdoor reared pedigree Berkshire pork is proving popular in the shop and Megan said she is particularly proud of the sow herd and the progress made at Tunstall Road Farm.
"We had four sows and a boar when I started. We now have 14 sows of which nine are pedigree Berkshires and as with the cattle and sheep, anything that is good enough for breeding is kept, otherwise it's all destined for the shop.
"We are very conscious of maintaining bloodlines in what is a rare breed and we have been partly responsible for the Freight Train bloodline rising from only four boars in the country to the 11 there are now.
"We're now one of the biggest pedigree breeders in the country."
By Chris Berry, Yorkshire Post
On the 1st May 2020 we were over the moon to be featured in our local newspaper the Darlington and Stockton Times.
By Ashley Barnard, 1st May 2020.
One thing that can be said for what was the Eating Out column is that the coronavirus outbreak has certainly forced us all to be more inventive when it comes to content.
The Barnard-Brown household hasn't actually had a takeaway meal yet, however it struck me that cooking some great local produce at home could also count as Eating In.
Living in Richmond, we are lucky to have plenty of superb independent producers and suppliers. There are three really good butchers, and we do actually use them all.
There's Angus Morton in Finkle Street, which does an excellent range of sausages and burgers; Hamilton's in Rosemary Lane, where we often get our beef brisket for a Sunday dinner; and the newer Tunstall Meat Company, in Reeth Road, which specialises in local lamb and beef.
Since the lockdown, we have been using our local suppliers as much as ever, and now get a fantastic box of fruit, salad and vegetables from Neeps and Tatties, based in Richmond Market Place.
We are also lucky to have Ken Warne for our groceries. Meynell's for pet supplies, and Edwina's when we need a good cake fix.
Easter weekend this year was never going to be the big family event we often have, but we still wanted a nice meal at home to make it special.
We decided to try a shoulder of lamb from Tunstall Meat Company, the shop being based just up the road from us.
We also stocked up on some sausages, burgers, and their fantastic lamb kofta for the freezer, which ended up getting eaten over Easter weekend too.
My husband James is the main chef in our house - I can cook but he really enjoys it whereas for me it's just another job in getting children fed - and he has mastered the perfect slow cooked beef brisket as his usual show-stopper meal. We decided to try and slow cook the lamb shoulder, with fresh rosemary and garlic thrown in for good measure.
Veg-wise we had such a fantastic array in our weekly box we were spoilt for choice. We had roast potatoes, mashed potato, carrot, spring cabbage, leeks, roast parsnips, Yorkshire puddings and gravy.
Yes that is quite a lot for two adults and an almost three year old, but we are always happy to have next day leftovers. Plus, Leo has hollow legs at the moment so keeping him fed is a constant challenge.
The lamb was delicious - so tender, melting off the bone and full of flavour. The little pockets of rosemary and garlic worked very well but really the was the star of the show on it's own.
Our vegetables were all beautifully fresh. I haven't had parsnips since Christmas, and these were so sweet and delicious, a real treat.
We all had clean plates at the end of our meal and we will definitely be trying lamb again over our usual beef.
As Easter weekend was such a sunny one, we had to get the barbecue. The rest of our Tunstall Meat Company haul of caramelised onion burgers, original pork sausages and lamb kofta went down extremely well.
The lamb kofta had been a favourite of ours since the butcher opened last year. They always seem to be made to order, and have just the right amount of spice and kick to them.
Our meat order of a shoulder of lamb, pack of eight beef burgers, six sausages, six lamb kofta and a shoulder of lamb cost £34. Our weekly fruit and veg box from Neeps and Tatties is £15.