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Poultry fit for royalty: Award accolade for Godwick Turkeys, which are supplied to the Queen at Christmas

Turkey farmer Robert Garner has won the

Turkey farmer Robert Garner has won the "Field to Fork" prize at the 2017 EDP Food and Drink Awards. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

This poultry is good enough for royalty – and now the Norfolk farmer whose turkeys grace the Queen’s Christmas dinner table is celebrating another accolade after winning an industry award.

Turkeys on Godwick Hall Farm. Picture: Ian Burt Turkeys on Godwick Hall Farm. Picture: Ian Burt

Godwick Turkeys, based at Godwick Hall Farm near Fakenham, won the Field to Fork category at this week’s 2017 EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards.

The company is run by Robert Garner, whose customers for his pampered free-range poultry include Howards Butchers in Gayton, near King’s Lynn, which in turn holds a Royal Warrant for supplying the Sandringham estate.

He said the award victory was another endorsement of the quality of his product, and the dedication to perfection which has won him such loyal and prestigious customers.

“Our turkeys are supplied to Her Majesty The Queen, but I don’t make a big thing out of it,” he said. “That’s not the way I operate. It’s all about the quality.

Turkey farmer Robert Garner has won the Turkey farmer Robert Garner has won the "Field to Fork" prize at the 2017 EDP Food and Drink Awards. Picture: Ian Burt

“Quite simply, its a fantastic feeling to be recognised for your efforts in producing a product that you have put so much time and dedication into, and to have it applauded is just the icing on the cake. We have always from the outset had quality as our driving force.

“It’s one thing to be applauded for your efforts but it is down mainly to the wonderful birds I spend so much time caring for – we just seem to understand each other.”

Mr Garner’s family has been rearing free-range turkeys at Godwick Hall for nearly 50 years – but the business is looking to the future.

Since 2004 the operation has grown from 200 turkeys to 6,000, and an £80,000 investment in a new cold store has added the capacity to grow by another 2,000 birds, at which point poultry will overtake arable as the 550-acre farm’s main income.

Turkeys on Godwick Hall Farm. Picture: Ian Burt Turkeys on Godwick Hall Farm. Picture: Ian Burt

He said: “We would love to produce more of these fantastic birds but expansion will be measured on a basis of maintaining our high standards of production, and only growing in a sustainable way, always focusing on genuine production that will only enhance our brand and what its core beliefs stand for, which is ‘quality, quality, quality’.

“It is not a supermarket-driven product. It is hand-reared product that is raised with a hell of a lot of passion and dedication. I think in the next two or three years we can put that extra 2,000 birds on. But if it takes five years, it takes five years – I want a sustainable business that I can build on.”

Godwick’s turkeys are bedded on fresh, dry straw, and have 24-hours access to pastures where they are allowed to “express their natural behaviour”.

They are grown to maturity, a minimum of 26 weeks old, and are dry-plucked by hand and traditionally hung for 14 days to guarantee a succulent meat for festive dinners.

Mr Garner ensures he meets all his butchers and wholesalers in person, giving tasting sessions so they can transmit his free-range farming ethos to their customers. This year he also launched a mobile “Gobble Box” snack bar – made by investing £12,000 to convert a horse-box – to sell turkey wraps at outdoor events – another chance to engage directly with the consumer.

“Its always a good thing to have a challenging new venture to get your teeth stuck into,” he said. “We have a way to go, but from feedback from events we have done through the summers it is going down well. Its proves one thing – that turkey is such a versatile meat and a real joy to work with and develop into so many different recipes. Yes, this an exciting time for us.”

EDP NORFOLK FOOD & DRINK AWARD WINNERS 2017:

• Best Family Dining: The Gardeners Kitchen at Green Pastures

• Pride of Norfolk: Candi’s Chutney

• Best Independent Food and Drink Retailer: Norwich Market

• Best Afternoon Tea: Heydon Village Tea Room

• Best Newcomer: Figbar

• Outstanding Front of House: Benedicts

• Chef of the Year: Alex Clare - The Ingham Swan

• Best Pub: The Brisley Bell

• Best Restaurant: Tamarind Fine Indian Dining

• Best Coffee/Tea Shop: Thornham Deli

• Field to Fork: Godwick Turkeys

• Outstanding Achievement Award: Aileen and Nick Mobbs

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