SHEEP farmer Carron Craighead has turned her traditional farmhouse into a butchery, chiller and working kitchen after launching into a new venture producing organic ready meals direct from the farm.

Along with her husband Steven, Carron runs Middle Coldcoats Farm in Ponteland, which has been her home since she was born.

Farming 237 acres, Middle Coldcoats Farm is home to 180 breeding ewes some of which will be lambing in April, 22 lambs and 101 suckler cows.

Carron, who has been selling fresh lamb at Hexham Farmers’ Market under the name MiddleMay Lamb for nearly two decades, first became inspired to create her own range of ready meals after creating lamb-based recipes for her own family.

“I wanted to find a way of making sure that no fresh lamb went to waste,” said Carron. “So I began freezing batches of pre-cooked meals to make them last longer.

“I would hand them out to neighbours and friends, and I received lots of compliments from them on how good the meals tasted.

“We wanted to add another string to our bow on the farm, and there was a market for home-made, organic locally produced ready meals which wasn’t available in supermarkets, and so I got to work setting up a MiddleMay range.”

Every milestone in the process from grass to plate takes place on Middle Coldcoats Farm under Carron’s supervision.

Crossbred between a Clun Forest Leicester ewe and a Hampshire ram, all lambs are reared outdoors on the 237 acre farm beside their mothers for at least five months on a forage-based diet mixed with home-grown feed.

A private butcher chops up in the on-farm butchery, after which Carron begins readying her meals over the purpose built hot stove and later stored in the huge chiller.

“My days are split between working out in the fields during the day, and then cooking the meals during the evening,” Carron said. “One of the best parts of only selling locally and not mass producing is that I don’t have to sacrifice my work on the farm for the meal production, because I would hate to give that up. I have the best of both worlds this way.”

One of the main reasons MiddleMay ready meals have been popular at the farmers’ market has been the local aspect of the product, Carron said, because people like to know where their food originates from – and that high standards of animal welfare are being met in every part of the process.

“Mass market food products have in the past created fictional farms to imitate the family run, high-welfare, organic farm that we actually run, for advertising purposes. That’s wrong because its selling false facts to customers, and reality of those farms and their welfare is very different to the image portrayed.

“But at Middle Coldcoats Farm our customers can come along to the farm to pick up their food, see how we do things, or get to know all the details from the farmers’ market. That helps to ensure that they know exactly what they are buying.”

Currently, Carron has seven exotic recipes available in her range of ready meals including lamb moussaka, Clun stew and lamb navarin – all of which are made with ingredients from the farm or produced locally in Northumberland.

“I wanted to showcase the wide range of recipe options people can create with lamb and make them stand out against the mass market ready meals.

“Lamb is one of the most environmentally sustainable products, and there is so much variety you can do with it, as I’ve tried to exemplify through my recipes.

“British sheep farmers need supporting now more than ever in the transition through Brexit – so I hope more Brits will see the great benefits of lamb, and add more to their plates.”

Transforming the

Every MiddleMay ready meal is homemade - from the