“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.”
For the Mackenzie family farming is a way of life where fortunes, rich or poor, are dictated by the unpredictability of the seasons. Farming requires skill, patience, constant care, good temperament, perseverance, trust and hope. Others might add a spattering of good luck and a good degree of humour to that by no means comprehensive list. Above all farming requires the farmer to love the countryside and possess in his or her soul a burning passion to grow and nurture both plant and animal in the art of producing food for the sustenance of oneself and mankind. Kenneth and his eldest son Peter live and breathe farming – monitoring the crops and feeding the livestock on a daily basis. From the moment a calf is born or the soil is prepared for planting seeds a labour of love is employed right up until the harvested grain or fattened calf has left the farm and the whole process has begun anew. The cycle of the farming calendar is constant and enduring, but with crops and animals vulnerable to the unpredictable forces of nature the pattern of farming life sees no two days them same. For the Mackenzies, it all just adds to the excitement of daily life.
Robert has three passions – Farming, Food and Africa. From an early age Robert enjoyed helping on the farm, particularly with the animals. He reared prize winning Texel cross sheep (the original pair following him everywhere) and kept his own chickens, earning some pocket money with an egg round around the farm cottages. He even had a pet calf called Samson – for a time – and school holidays were spent feeding animals and helping out with tractor work, driving off grain and potatoes at harvest time and stacking bales.
Robert’s passion for good food was inevitable with, his mother, Elizabeth being a great cook and fantastic home baker. Bringing up her family of three strapping boys required Elizabeth to be almost constantly thinking about food. Home cooking, with as much locally sourced produce as possible, was – and still is – the order of the day. The farmhouse kitchen is rarely without the inviting scents of a bubbling pot of soup, a joint of meat roasting in the oven, or the wonderful homely aroma of a freshly baked sponge or tray bake ready to be enjoyed with a good cup of tea. A garden full of fruit trees (a legacy of Uncle Bert), including apples, pears, greengages, plums and damsons can, in good years, provide a rich autumn harvest and Robert has fond memories of picking brambles from the hedgerows with his mother and helping his grandmother in the garden with her peas, runner beans, beetroot, carrots, strawberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries. A love of shooting and stalking ensures that Robert’s larder is never short of ingredients for a great feast and he is as comfortable making himself a boiled egg with his own homemade rapeseed oil and garlic mayonnaise as he is barbequing a whole salmon or throwing a dinner party for thirty.
Finding the inspiration for his business in Africa, a continent that has gripped his imagination, it is no surprise that this combination of Robert’s three passions has brought him home to the farm to establish a food business adding value to the produce being grown by his father and brother.