James Skevington - Lower Washborne Farm
Getting the Golden Goose
James has been farming at Lower Washbourne farm since 1964 when his late father made the move from Bedfordshire to Totnes. In 1995 he joined the Riverford cooperative of South Devon Organic Producers and converted to organic.
Over the last few years James has made a new addition to his farm: geese. For James, keeping organic geese doesn’t just mean free-range but also provides assurances to his customers that his geese are not fed on GM feed, given routine antibiotics, or kept in large flocks.
We got the chance to talk to James about why organic geese are the perfect Christmas treat.
Why are you organic?
I think being organic teaches you so much. When we started we made quite a few mistakes, but so did everybody else. For me, growing organically is not just a science, but also an art.
Tell us what looking after geese entails?
Once hatched the geese grow enormously quickly, so after 10 days I let them out into a covered yard, where I have installed a few strategically placed heat lamps to keep them warm and comfortable at night. We keep them in the yard until they are two months old, then they start going out by day. At first they’re looking up at the sky all the time because they’re aware of predators, but after a while, and as they get bigger, they become more relaxed. Normally when they get to the out grazing stage, I only see them twice a day – taking them out in the morning and leading them back at night with the help of my faithful collie.
We’ve noticed that you’re geese are under tree cover, why is this important?
They’re great for the geese as they get to eat all the apples. They love it, and when they hear a ‘thud doink’ they all go running off to find the apple. Being outside, among the trees the apples stop them from becoming too aggressive. Instead a falling apple is a good distraction and gives them something fun to play with.
Why should you have a goose for Christmas?
It is something that is pretty unique, 99% of people aren’t going to taste one at any other time of the year, but they’re willing to push the boat out and buy something a bit special for their Christmas lunch.
Goose is a very rich product; the portion size is half of what you’d have with a Turkey, and the fat that’s in the goose is all un-saturated. Personally, I always cook my goose on a trivet, and use the excess goose fat for roasting potatoes potatoes, that makes them really special.