Limes Farm is a family run farm on the Northamptonshire/Oxfordshire border. After being inspired by the work Jamie Oliver has done to drive through changes to the quality of school meals throughout the UK, husband and wife team Ian and Nicky Dorward, developed a daily meals service to provide hot homemade lunches to small local schools. Twelve months down the line they provide healthy lunches to nine schools, with more schools waiting to sign up to the service.
Nicky Dorward, a trained chef and senior food technologist said: “We watched the Jamie Oliver Schools Meals Campaign avidly and it was fantastic to see how much awareness he was able to bring to the lack of fresh, nutritious food in schools. The TV programme was on just at the time we were working on development plans for the farm to see how we could diversify into new areas using our own farm produce. We had already decided to convert one of our derelict barns into a farm shop and tearoom and after watching Jamie’s inspirational programme we believed we could also offer schools in the local area a healthy alternative to their current hot meals service.”
The success of the Limes Farm hot school meals service was recognised by the Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards who awarded Limes Farm the Local Food Hero of the Year Award 2010/11. The judges were looking for local businesses that go further in producing, supplying, promoting or selling local goods or food services, by contributing to the reduction of food miles and carbon emissions. Limes Farm was considered to encapsulate this ethos within their business model – not just for school meals but in all the food they produce.
To test the water for this service, Nicky and Ian approached Farthinghoe Primary School in their village first and the timing couldn’t have been better. The school had also seen Jamie’s programme and decided something had to be done to improve the quality and nutrition of their hot meals.
Wendy Whitehouse, Head Teacher at Farthinghoe Primary School comments:
“We knew Nicky and Ian already as they had an excellent reputation in the village for the quality of the cakes, tarts, jams and chutneys they were already producing. Following the Jamie Oliver campaign we realised our own school meals needed a drastic re-think so it seemed like the obvious route to link with Limes Farm to come up with an affordable solution that meant our children would get a homemade, nutritiously balanced hot meal using ingredients sourced from the local area. I have to say, Nicky’s vision for what Limes Farm could offer was wonderful and they have definitely delivered on their proposal – far exceeding our expectations. The children love the meals and the feedback we’ve had from the parents has been amazing. We couldn’t imagine going back to what we had before!”
Limes Farm school meals exceed the standards set by the School Food Trust. Each term they write three new menus and these rotate throughout the term. The ingredients come from their own homegrown vegetables, farm reared or locally sourced meat and eggs from their chickens. The ingredients that they can't grow or create themselves are sourced from other local food producers including flour for their bread and pizza dough, which comes from Wessex Mill in Oxfordshire, a traditional miller that only uses wheat from local farmers.
Ian Dorward describes the family philosophy behind their school meals; “All our meals are cooked from scratch, we never use packet mixes or take shortcuts. Our head taster is our 3-year old son, Will and so far he has approved every meal! No dinner ever goes to the schools that we would not happily eat ourselves and we often do.”
As soon as Farthinghoe School took on the Limes Farm hot meals service, word spread around the local area and within a 12-month period they’ve gone from one to nine schools. They now serve a homemade, freshly prepared hot meal to 400 children every day throughout the school year.
Limes Farm also came up with a unique way to keep parents informed as to their child’s eating habits with a sticker system. Every child who eats up all their hot meal receives a ‘clean plate’ smiley face sticker to wear for the rest of day; communicating to their parents they’ve eaten their dinner. Nicky explains the concept behind this:
“We wanted to engage the children and parents in the service we were offering and the clean plate award seemed like a fun way to do this. The children love collecting their stickers and it lets parents know their child has finished their lunch - we hardly ever have a child going home without a sticker!”
Now the farm shop and tearoom is open, Ian and Nicky are busier than ever and as Nicky explains it feels like Jamie Oliver has had a large part to play in this:
“We never believed that watching Jamie’s TV programme would lead to all this – the school meals service has been more successful than we ever dared dream and we’re sure the success of farm shop and tearoom is down to the positive recognition we’ve had from the local schools and parents. Now that we’re stocking the Jamie Oliver range of speciality foods in our shop it feels like we’ve come full circle – who knows maybe Jamie and his family will come and visit the shop one day – we’d definitely like to say thank you!”
Notes to Editors
Limes Farm Limited is owned by John Deeley, his daughter Nicky Dorward and her husband Ian Dorward. Limes Farm has been in the Deeley family for almost 200 years and the farm itself can be traced back through the Farthinghoe village history books as far as 1066.
For more information about the farm, the shop, tearoom and the hot school meals service please visit www.limesfarm.com
Limes Farm Office
Tel 01295 711 229
Marketing Agency Details
Tel 01608 658 655