Rebecca Butler provides an insight into the history of Plumpton Agricultural College and some of the courses that are running today, including an upcoming venison butchery course.


Plumpton College, near Lewes, East Sussex became established as a training centre for land based studies in 1926. The College grew steadily between 1926 and 1937 when a major extension was built and the name was changed from the East Sussex Agricultural Institute to the East Sussex School of Agriculture.

During the War years, normal courses were discontinued and the site was used to provide short courses for entrants to the Women’s Land Army, over two thousand trainees completed courses before being sent to farms all over the country. The College also became a centre for the County War Agricultural committee.

During the 1980s and 1990s equine, animal care, veterinary nursing, wine production, viticulture, metal-smithing, blacksmithing, forestry and an extensive range of horticultural provision was established not only at the traditional 16 to 19 age range, but also for schools for 14 to 16-year-olds and also in partnership with the University of Brighton, to provide Foundation Degree and Degree Level courses. 

During 2004-2010 considerable expansion of the College took place with a new winery, animal care and workshop facilities and an expansion of the Colleges main building to include new library and further residential accommodation. 

In 2003 the then head of Plumpton College Netherfield, Simon Bishop together with Topsy Jewell of Common Cause, established The Netherfield Centre the aim to raise awareness of farming, food and environmental issues by providing an advice, training and networking enterprise to assist farmers and growers to keep farming in a sustainable way.

There are a range of courses to encourage the learning of new skills and enable greater direct selling in “gate to plate.” In particular the "Be A Butcher" courses are very hands on. They take place at an on-farm cutting room. One of the series of butchery courses is Venison Butchery. As with all the butchery courses other than beef, you will work on our own carcass, overseen by our highly experienced butcher. Starting with a skinned deer carcass you will learn about: 

The basic tools needed, knives and equipment and how to keep them in good condition. How to assess the quality of the culled carcass with regard to the end product. There is a demonstration of the basic cuts and how to cut the carcass into main sections - legs, back, middle & fore-end, as well as tuition on variations on styles of cutting to take account of selling and marketing of the meat.

Other feautures of the course show how to adapt cutting to suit your market. How to butcher main parts of carcass, bone or divide into muscle groups. Learn to cut cutlets, steak and how to take the tender loin out and bone out the fore-end to produce boneless braising & stewing venison. 

The course is designed for anyone with an interest in venison who wants to know more about cuts of meat and how best to utilize them. A butchery apprenticeship is also available, please contact Plumpton College for more details.

In January 2011 The Centre for Sustainable Food and Farming moved to Plumpton College at Flimwell and now encompasses forestry/woodland related courses. In fact coincidentally, and as misfortune has it, the move to Flimwell was precipitated by the untimely death of Simon Bishop in a deer related motor vehicle accident! 

For more about venison follow this link: venison



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