Trader Profile-Feltham’s Farm

Over the summer we caught up with a few of the food producers from Somerset Farmers Markets, finding out more about life behind the scenes as a Somerset food producer. Here’s a little Q & A with Marcus from Feltham’s Farm, a smalholding which makes  the award winning – and notoriously pungent – Renegade Monk cheese. Marcus told us all about life in the “Silicon Valley of cheese making” and what inspired him to create the South West’s stinkiest cheese. 

Hi Marcus! Tell us a bit about you and your farm and the business.
Feltham’s Farm is run by husband and wife team Marcus Fergusson and Penny Nagle. It’s a 22 acre smalholding, undergoing organic conversion, where we make the notoriously pungent Renegade Monk cheese – and raise chickens, quail, duck, Hebridean sheep and Oxford Sandy & Black pigs – this last to consume the whey from cheese production. We try to be as sustainable as possible and to tread as lightly on the land as we can. That means organic food for all the animals and no nasties on the land. The cheese barn is powered by solar PV and ground source heating; rainwater is harvested for the animals to drink and we attend markets and deliver our cheeses in an electric van (charged by our solar panels).

Where do you get your inspiration – what motivates you to do what you do? 
Renegade Monk, our first cheese, is inspired by the soft, stinky cheeses that you can find in France but which rarely makes it across the Channel. It’s a hybrid – a cross between soft white cheese, blue cheese and washed-rind cheese. Other cheeses in development will also take inspiration from the Continent but be given a hybrid twist. Situated where we are, in the Silicon Valley of cheese making, there is little point in our trying to replicate what generations of fabulous Cheddar makers do – so our approach is to try to create something a little bit different.

Why did you choose to come and trade at the Frome Independent Somerset farmers market section?
We’ve traded at a number of markets in Somerset and Dorset. Quite simply there is nothing quite like Frome. There is a true independent spirit at Frome Independent and a positive vibe in the town itself on market day. To be a part of the farmers market here is fantastic for maintaining awareness of us – and the footfall is also amazing.

What do you like about market trading  – why not just sell online or through retail outlets?
Market trading is tough – and there are moments on a cold morning when we’d much rather still be in bed. However, selling face to face, telling our story, and seeing peoples’ reactions when they taste the cheese simply can’t be bettered. Market sales account for a small percentage of our business but it is important to keep in touch with our end consumers to understand what they like.

Tell us about your own favourite or best-selling product. How much work goes into creating it, why do you think this is your strongest product?
We currently only make one cheese, Renegade Monk – although a variation on it, Rebel Nun, makes an occasional appearance when the cheese gods smile (it tends to be firmer and bluer). Renegade Monk takes four weeks to make and mature. It’s incredibly labour-intensive, as the cheeses have to be checked every day, and have to be frequently washed in ale and turned as they develop.

What is your favourite Frome shop, or stall to visit at The Frome Independent?
So many to choose from, but we love Settler’s Stores on Cheap Street, run by our good friend Zara D’Abo – and everyone should visit Palmer Street Bottle to sample some extraordinary craft beers and carefully curated cheeses (including Renegade Monk, naturally).

And finally, some quick fire questions….

Favourite book?
Tricky. Recently read ‘Jonathan Strange and Dr Norrell’ by Susanna Clarke which was stunning.

Tell us about your dream day off.
A beach with our children; a good seafood beach cafe or country pub on the way home; and perhaps once not having to go into the cheese room.

What are you listening to right now?

Compiling a playlist of funk, disco and dance to DJ at a cousin’s 50th birthday!

What are you cooking/ eating / drinking at the moment?
Grilling some of our home-made sausages for our children’s supper and contemplating a cold gin and tonic!

Thanks Marcus! You can find Feltham’s Farm and their Renegade Monk cheese on Sunday 3rd November, or check out their website or the Somerset Farmers Market website for other locations