Yesterday on the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show with Chris Evans they were celebrating great British butchers. Today, we’re taking a similar stance and celebrating the great British farm shop.
Once upon a time (in our semi-rural childhood memories), a farm shop was a barn (on a farm), cold and dimly lit (if lit at all) with crates and palates of freshly dug, muddy vegetables with meat available to order.
Obviously we’re harking back a couple of decades (maybe three), when our mothers went to greengrocers and butchers or the farm shop, before out of town superstores really existed.
For us, the farm shop was a treat then as much as it is now. Just in different ways. As kids (back then) it was cool to actually go to a farm, catch sight of a tractor and come home with something really tasty to go with Sunday lunch (after a good scrubbing!). Nowadays, (as quality seeking adults) there’s still a coolness to going to a farm shop but more so because they each represent individual, entrepreneurial enterprises yet still hammer home the same wholesome goodness: low food mileage, natural and immense flavours, fresher than fresh, muddy skins, wonky shapes, and farm-to-fork provenance. They’re just a whole heap shinier and often come with a frothy coffee option too.
Not only do we love cottages, we love local. Holidays should be about experiences. And experiencing local produce while on holiday is one of life’s joys. Even if you’re not on a self-catering holiday, we bet you’ll buy a cone of local dairy ice cream on your next trip to the seaside. And even if you opt for a supermarket delivery to your holiday cottage, we bet you’ll discover the local fudge shop, deli, bakery or coffee house on your wanderings.
The great thing is that it’s so easy to enjoy local nowadays. And while most farmshops have an online presence these days, if not an online shop, this is still an industry to support. Good on our farmers for finding their entrepreneurial wings.
Nothing beats a locally reared leg of lamb or a locally grown parsnip. So we’ve asked around and here’s the list that’ll get you fed up and down the country just in time for Christmas. See you in the queue for the turkeys!
West Country farm shops
Our favourites from Devon and Cornwall.
Family and hard work are at the heart of Farmer Luxtons farm shop on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. Now you can find their produce not only in the local butcher but also in their burgeoning farm shop. With your bags weighed down with farm reared, fed and hung meat, don’t leave without a hot, homemade sausage roll for the short trip back to your holiday home – you don’t want to get stuck in Devon’s traffic without a snack now do you. And before you leave your Devon holiday cottage, place an order for half a lamb to pick up on your way home – it comes portioned to your requirements and labelled for digging out of the freezer and not being clueless as to your pickings.
In numbers alone, it’s impressive: 28 acres, 70 crops, 30 years’ trading. Sticking to their homegrown and homereared ethos, you’ll find deliciously good quality meat and be delighted by the fruits and vegetables you’d never find in the supermarkets (at least not at a price that didn’t include an airfare). Heard of tummelberries? You can pick your own here (in season, of course). And right now, in December, you can still head to the farm to pick sweetcorn, eating and cooking apples.
Now if picking is too arduous for you, or you’re pooped after a morning’s harvest, it’s very easy to make a day of it. The café is open from dawn until dusk and naturally serves fresh, homegrown produce to fuel even the fussiest of palates. Whether you’re enjoying a day out or stocking up for the week in your Cornish holiday cottage, this is Cornwall on a plate.
Farm shops in the Cotswolds and south of England
Bit of a geographical jumble but how else to collectively group these farm shop favourites…
An island of farming in one place, pretty much. It’s the endeavor of two island farming families to bring local produce to the forefront of islanders’ minds that has brought us this charming farm shop. Their meat comes from four island farms. And its in-house butcher advises and cuts it to your requirements. Wondering what to do with a piece of brisket? You’ll be wiser for asking the team here and more than sated once you’ve finished it!
And if you like what you buy on your Isle of Wight holiday, you can reprise your meal time showstoppers once you’re home thanks to their recipe laden blog.
Casey Fields Farm Shop and Vicars Game, Ashampstead, Berks
We found ourselves here following a recommendation. And if you like game, you’ll want to get yourself here too. Rural Berkshire is shooting country, so there’s a myriad of locally shot game to choose from – venison fans eat your heart out. Expect to spend 5-10 minutes just taking it all in. There’s a lot of meat to scan. And the butchers allow you all the time in the world. Got questions, they’ve got answers on top of fine butchery skills and cooking knowledge. You’ll want to do a year’s worth of shopping, there’s so much choice, but leave room in the basket for veggies and bakery goods from the adjacent farm shop. Not to mention the freshly made game pies, home smoked wild boar, handlinked sausages, home dry cured bacon… ok stop, we’re salivating now.
The grapevine tells us that since our visit in the summer, a café has sprung up to create an experience worth sticking around a while for. So a trip back to these parts is definitely on the cards!
If you’ve opted for a Suffolk holiday cottage next year, here’s one of your days out sorted. Plonked in the middle of an area that has Bury St Edmunds to the north, Colchester to the south, Ipswich to the east and Sudbury to the west, this is ‘high Suffolk’. Arguably, you could stop here on your way to or from your Aldeburgh cottage or Southwold bolthole.
Third generation family farmers have created what they call a farm experience. For kids young and old the working farm will fascinate, including the farm trail that they’ve so considerately made buggy friendly (suits wheelchair users too). For the foodie, the relatively new butchery not only sells cuts of farm-reared meat, but also meal packs – so dinner is sorted whether you choose a stir fry pack or a stew pack. And with a daily vegetable picking, it doesn’t get any fresher than that.
Farm shop favourites in the Midlands and the north
Yet another sweeping geographical area, but we’re handpicking here based on experience, so bear with us!
Denstone Hall, Uttoxeter, Staffs
The produce of two counties under one roof plus award winning sausages. Breakfast anyone? Perched on the Staffordshire-Derbyshire border, you could easily wend your way here from a Lichfield city break, a weekend in Ashbourne, or a Peak District retreat. If for no other reason, come for a bite to eat – their café has won Best Tea Room in Staffordshire three years in a row! The menu goes far beyond the origins of a tea room concept (hearty soups and homely pies) but even the most savoury of palates will weaken at the knees for their courgette cake (oh yes you will).
The wonderful part about this venture is that it’s about the produce of the wider community. Denstone has become a showcase for hundreds of local independent producers. The farm shop naturally offers meat from the Denstone Hall farm, but also pork and lamb from nearby farms. The bread comes fresh from Ashbourne, the milk, yoghurts and cheeses from a handful of local dairies. Our suggestion: come here en route to your cottage, or the next day, because you’ll want to stock up and get stuck in.
It always starts with a farm and here farm butchery is the crux of the business. And it’s another farming community success story. Because when demand for Knitsley’s beef exceeded what they could provide, they teamed up with neighbouring farmers to keep serving up the goods. Oh and its 21 day aged beef is good!
If you’re looking for something a little different for your holiday breakfasts and brunches, we’re a little bit keen on their black bacon – it’s cured in treacle and beer, oh yes. We’ll let your imaginations savour that one while you despair at the water seeping out of the supermarket bacon under your grill right now…
Anyway. It could be a meat fuelled week if you stop in here early on your self-catering break. In the shop, you’ll find the farm’s meat in succulent pies – we were persuaded to try their corned beef pie and you should be persuaded too. Wipe any previous school meal horror stories from your mind, somehow they’ve made corned beef both edible and enjoyable. Don’t try it at home, just eat theirs, no tinned produce was harmed in its making.
Farm shops in Wales
When most people think about Wales, they think about lamb. And these farm shops showcase the best of that amongst everything else that Welsh farmers are so good at producing.
There are fewer heartwarming experiences than seeing a family farm and its family members selling home grown and home reared food to their fans all the time bearing big, yet humble, smiles. This is a family venture oozing warmth alongside its veritably delicious produce.
From a modest PYO farm they’ve expanded based on what their local customers wanted and would buy. And now also rear cattle, lambs and chickens to go alongside the many vegetable a fruit varieties on offer. Your weekly meal shopping can be complete in one trip, from eggs and bacon to lamb chops and three veg. We’ve got more than a little bit of love for this place, which makes it a must-do for our Anglesey holidays.
Now if you feel that your hands are tied to that supermarket delivery slot, think again. Local orders over £20 can be delivered! So your meat, at least, will be local and fresh from the farm when you arrive at your Colwyn Bay cottage. If you’re just swinging past, save your trip for the afternoon as they’re usually out and about at farmers’ markets in the mornings – don’t say we didn’t warn you.
If you’re not used to buying meat fresh from the source, don’t be put off. They’re happy to help you buy based on a meal plan and also have a great selection of recipes. So whether you like cooking or not, that cottage kitchen could be about to get more use than you thought!
Scottish farm shops
From inland to island we’re a little spoilt for choice when it comes to farm shops in Scotland. Perhaps most noticeably, there’s a lot less meat involved in our favourite farm shop haunts here…
Sick of all this talk of meat? Try this place. It’s all about fruit. Pick it, buy it, eat it and then buy some more in local pies, jams and cakes. The farm shop is also abundant in local honeys, fresh breads and local, seasonal vegetables.
Perhaps most exciting, for those travelling with the restless leg troupe, it has a mega maze! We can’t promise you’ll lose your little rascals in there, but it’ll certainly keep them occupied for a while so you can enjoy the tea room in peace.
It doesn’t get anymore local than this – a community project that’s producing local, organic goods in a beautiful setting, in a wonderful building, while employing local people. It’s hard not to love what’s happening here (or the heavenly cheeses). This is social enterprise in action and one so good you’ll actually find their delicious goodies sold around the country. But they’ll happily mail order your favourites to you too!
The idyllic spot of the farm shop will lull you first. Then you’ll taste the cheese and before you know it you’ve got enough dairy produce in your arms to feed an army. On the face of it this is just dairy, but turns out they bake their own breads and rear their own meat too. Not wishing to miss anything from your shopping basket there’s also locally sourced fruit and veg on sale.
We think we may have saved the best for last. Depending on your taste, that is. This is seventh heaven for fish and seafood fans. And it’s hard to miss – it’s two minutes from Talisker’s distillery.
In the farm shop you really will be spoilt for choice on the fishy front. From home harvested oysters to fresh crab and langoustines, if it weren’t for the weather you’d think you’d been teleported to the Mediterranean.
They’ve got a sense of humour here too: they’ll let you (attempt to) shuck your own oysters. Or you can have a shucking lesson. Alternatively, watch them do it (free of charge) and just enjoy. This one’s tough to leave, but then there’s the temptation of whisky tasting just down the road.
So after all that, who’s making dinner…?