Cornish Mill and Bakehouse
Many of the region’s food and drink producers are family businesses, but few can claim the title quite as much as North Cornwall’s Cornish Mill and Bakehouse.
Over the past 21 years, David and Sara Buscombe have employed all 12 of their children and a number of their 30 grandchildren.
“The size of our family is the reason the business is here at all,” says David. “Because we’ve got seven sons and five daughters, we needed a little extra income in the early days. My wife always did a bit of baking and when Truro Farmers Market came along and offered us a stall, it was a golden opportunity. Now, 21 years later, we still have some of the same customers, which is quite amazing really.”
The bakery is based at Trescowthick Farm, just outside Newlyn East and, in addition to Truro Farmers Market, supplies Falmouth Farmers’ Market and a number of local cafés and village shops.
Originally, the family began baking in the farmhouse kitchen, but around 15 years ago they converted a cow shed into a bakery.
While some family members have moved onto different careers, others work full or part time in the family business. Son Charles, focuses on the breads and daughter Cecilia, bakes many of the cakes, while Robert runs the mill and son-in-law Daniel works in the family’s café, the Baker’s Dozen, in nearby Cubert.
Describing their approach as traditional, farmhouse baking, the family makes a wide range of bread, pasties, cakes and biscuits. Saffron buns, Florentines, Eccles cakes and ginger snaps are year-round favourites. Many cakes are based on old recipes from Sara’s family in Cumbria and Lancashire while the pasties are crafted according to David’s grandmother’s recipe, which she gave to the couple when they got married.
The run-up to Christmas sees the bakery producing mince pies, Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings, while Simnel cakes are sold at Easter.
“The main thing we like to do is to keep it very traditional,” Sara explains. “It’s all baked by our family and that’s the essence of what we do.”
David adds: “We try not to mass produce. It’s all hand packed, there’s no machinery to do the job.”
While staying true to its roots, the bakery has developed new products to meet changing demands from customers. The family produces a range of items made from gluten-free ingredients and are looking into the possibility of vegan products. They are also striving to reduce packaging.
The Buscombes have been tenant farmers for 30 years and still keep bullocks to produce the beef that is used in the bakery’s pasties. The bran, which is a by-product of the flour production, is fed to the cows, minimising waste.
While they still need to buy in some of the flour they use, the introduction of the mill in 2005 enabled the bakery to complete the whole process, with stoneground flours now grown, milled and baked on site. The wheat is harvested in the spring and stored for a minimum of 12 months on a wooden floor before being milled.
“Some people told us we would never be able to produce flour in Cornwall because of the rain,” Sara says. “The flour does vary each year, depending on the weather, and more sun equals more protein.”
Charles explains further: “Our stoneground wholemeal is just the whole wheat grain with nothing taken out or added. These breads offer much higher nutritional value, compared with those made with processed white flours. Many of our customers say they wouldn’t buy bread anywhere else.”
“Something that’s really lacking in the shops today is real baking, with substance and flavour. I think that’s what people enjoy. We don’t use any preservatives, enhancers, or emulsifiers.”
“The movement towards people choosing more natural foods and supporting local businesses should benefit us.”
“We worked out that many of our products only have eleven food miles and that is really just the travel from the farm to the market.”
Cornish Mutual has insured the farm and bakery for nearly 20 years and has also taken on the insurance for the café. “Cornish Mutual have always been good to us and have never let us down.”
Hayley Truscott, Cornish Mutual local insurance advisor said: “The Cornish Mill and Bakehouse have been Cornish Mutual Members for nearly two decades and we are very grateful to them for their loyalty. They are a traditional Cornish family business and have stayed true to their core values while adapting to new challenges and opportunities.”
“This is a really successful farm diversification business that has stood the test of time and one that we are proud to insure. It is impressive to see how David and Sara have grown and evolved the business to fit with the changing needs of the family. We are delighted that Cornish Mutual has been able to grow and evolve to continue to meet their needs.”
The Buscombes recently welcomed the latest grandchild and with the family continuing to grow, the future looks secure for the Cornish Mill and Bakehouse. While they do not want the business to become too big and lose sight of its ethos, David and Sara have ambitions to open another café and continue to develop new products, to meet customers’ changing needs.
David said: “The bakery has grown and grown and with so many members of the family going through the business, we’ve got to keep branching out to keep them all busy, haven’t we?”
“And there’s nothing better than working with your family.”