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Sussex Gold, producers of sunflower and rapeseed oil

PUBLISHED: 11:41 25 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:04 20 February 2013

Sussex Gold, producers of sunflower and rapeseed oil

Sussex Gold, producers of sunflower and rapeseed oil

Farmers John and Alison Ford have gone into the oil business on their farm deep in the Sussex countryside. Their oil reflects the colour of the sunflowers and rape seed it is produced from. Kate Eastman learnt more on a visit to Partridge Green

Priors Byne Farm,situated in the Adur Valley with stunning views across the South Downs, is where owner John Ford and his wife Alison first created Sussex Gold.We started producing Sussex Gold Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil in July 2007 using Rapeseed grown on the farm, says John. We have been farming in Sussex as a family since 1946 and in Partridge Green since 1993 but in the early part of this decade we were, as a farm, finding things very hard so we started looking for diversification opportunities. I spent a great deal of time researching options such as beef box schemes and bio fuels.
In 2005, John and Alison decided to try culinary oils and started researching into methods of making the products and where to market them. That year I came across an article in a magazine about another farm that had started doing the same thing, explains John.
I felt this would be enough to stop us being successful so we shelved the idea for a while. A year later we had another look and decided to give it a try and geared up for a 2007 launch. By this time there were four other producers in the UK, today there are at least 50!
In the same year as the launch John grew his first crop of sunflowers and pressed them to produce the only English Sunflower Oil available on the market. With over 1,000 acres on the farm John grows rapeseed on about 100 acres and sunflowers on 40.
The 100 acres of rape produces around 150 tonnes of seed which in turn produces around 45,000 litres of oil and the sunflowers produce about 40 tonnes of seed which produces 8,000 litres of oil, explains John. We sell oil in various sizes from 25 litre drums for catering down to our standard half litre bottles which we sell over 20,000 per year. We also sell a large volume to Sussex based restaurants such as South Lodge, Hotel du Vin or Bailiffs Court.
John is currently developing new products to be made from their rapeseed oil. A range of mayonnaise should be on the shelves very soon, he says.
The rapeseed oil has a very mild nutty flavour and has a clean unoily taste which works really well in our new mayonnaise. Its so versatile it can work well in salad dressings, stir frying, baking or just shallow frying. It really is great for roasting potatoes as it leaves them crispy on the outside but fluffy on the inside.
We also make a range of salad dressings, marinades and also an oak smoked rapeseed oil. However the sunflower oil has a strong peppery/rocket flavour and has an oily taste. It is much more suited to salad dressings as its flavour imparts too much on cooked food.
Priors Byne Farm also has 150 beef cattle which are fed the pellets from the rapeseed as a protein supplement.
Once the oil is pressed there is still 15 per cent oil left in the pellets which we give to our beef herd, says John.
We also sell a proportion of our sunflower seed for bird seed. You would be amazed what customers suggest we could use the oil for but none are printable Im afraid! The most satisfying is when someone trying the oil says oh I only like olive oil and they then go on to buy our oils because they are surprised how good it is.
Sussex Gold oils can be found at Waitrose, Tesco and many farm shops and delis all over Sussex. They also go to many farmers markets and shows like the South of England Show or you can order direct on their website.

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