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Simply The Best!
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 11:33

One of the most exciting effects of discovering a really good food outlet, be it farm shop, farmers’ market, restaurant or even pick-your-own, is that it inspires you afresh to get cooking. The post-work, weekday evening meal is suddenly alive with the possibilities proffered by new, seasonal or innovative flavours and ingredients. Even the most reluctant cook can toss a salad together, compile a platter of local cheese, or serve a farmhouse sausage in sourdough bun.

Therefore a recommended list then of some of the best local food retailers in the land, selected by industry experts, is something to be drooled over. The FARMA Awards are exactly that.


Known collectively as the ‘FARMAs’, these Awards recognise those farm shops, farmers’ markets, pick-your own and farm destination sites, which stand out from the crowd in 2013. They exemplify a not only a passion for local food and the customer experience, but a commitment to farming and the environment. In other words, the sort of place, where we’d all like to shop.


So without further ado, here are the winners of this year’s FARMAs, announced last week by FARMA patron and local food champion, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall:


UK Farm Retailer of the Year: Ludlow Food Centre, Shropshire

Sponsored by CSY Retail Solutions

Ludlow Food Centre

Ludlow Food Centre offers a unique shopping experience. Launched in 2007 on the Earl of Plymouth’s Oakly Park Estate in Bromfield, on the outskirts of Ludlow, its mission was to make and sell only the best fresh, local, seasonal and handmade food. With this in mind, the shop floor was constructed with eight glass-windowed workshops around it where busy producers can be seen boiling jam, brewing beer, patting butter, churning ice-cream, moulding cheese and baking bread.

More than 80% of the produce on sale at the Food Centre comes from Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Powys. 50% is sourced from the Estate or made onsite using traditional methods to create literally hundreds of different products, from pasties to puddings, using the Estate’s ingredients. Beef, pork, lamb, and milk all come from the Estate farms, as well as some fruit and vegetables grown in the restored 2 acre walled garden. This will soon be supplemented by a newly planted orchard of old varieties of pear, cherries, damson, quince, meddler, plum and apple. Quality, as well as provenance, is paramount - products such as jams are only made when the ingredients are in season for optimum flavour – and the Centre has won a number of Awards for its products, the title of ‘World’s Best Marmalade’ amongst them.

Farmers’ Markets of the Year:

Stroud Farmers’ Market, Gloucestershire

Surbiton Farmers’ Market, London


Pick-your-own Farms of the Year:

Garsons Farm, Esher, Surrey

School Visit to Garson's Farm

As their motto states, Garsons Farm in Esher has been ‘growing since 1871’; today boasting amongst its other achievements, the largest pick-your-own in the UK. 150 acres are dedicated to growing fruit, vegetables and flowers for the public to pick from May through to October. Customers can choose from over 40 crops, including several varieties of the ever-popular strawberries and raspberries, cherries, plums, peas and sweetcorn, as well as more unusual PYO options like Kohl Rabi, red cabbage, and even sweet peas and sunflowers.

Gray’s Farm, Berkshire

Gray’s Farm in Berkshire has been devoted to pick-your-own since 1973, when Donald and Marjorie Gray first opened their farm gates to the public. Now run by their son Peter and his wife Elizabeth, the ongoing success of the business is testimony to the family’s skill and commitment to producing high quality and flavoursome fruit and vegetables. From rhubarb in May to sprouts in September, customers can enjoy more than 20 different types of crops, including the perennial favourites of strawberries, raspberries and other soft fruits, plus broad and runner beans, beetroot, broccoli and sweetcorn.


The FARMA Rising Stars Awards:

Sponsored by Tyrrells Potato Crisps

Hartley Farm Shop

Apley Farm Shop, Shropshire

Apley Farm shop and The Creamery Restaurant are owned by Lord and Lady Hamilton, who created the business in 2011 to revitalise Apley’s traditional estate role of providing food and employment for the local community. The farm shop specialises in the Estate’s own beef and a delicious range of home-cured and smoked meats, homemade terrines, pâtés and tarts, plus a tempting selection of homemade cakes. There is also plenty on offer from local farms and producers.

Hartley Farm Shop, Wiltshire

Hartley Farm Shop and Cafe is an inspiring example of the magic that can happen when farmers and producers work together.  The business is run by the Bowles family, who also work the 150 acre traditional mixed farm in Winsley to supply the farm shop with traditional breeds of grass-fed beef, outdoor pork and free-range eggs. Lamb and dairy products are sourced from the local farms of extended family members. The onsite production kitchen creates an tempting range of pies, Scotch eggs, quiches, salads, cakes and traybakes.

Hartley Farm has also become home to other food producers, now based on the farm and in the farm shop, who extend the impressive range of own and local food on offer: resident market gardener Kate Collyns grows seasonal fruit, vegetables and plants, beekeeper Robert Dark producers delicious honey from his hives, and Willy Good Ales brew their delicious beverages onsite. The farm also houses a bespoke carpentry business, an interior design studio, and a flourist’s which uses the farm’s own flowers.

Home Farm, Beningbrough, North Yorkshire

Home Farm is part of the National Trust Estate belonging to Beningbrough Hall, on the outskirts of York. The Jackson family have been tenant farmers there for 50 years, and in 2006, due to low milk prices, decided to open a farm shop to ensure the future of their cattle business.

The farm shop is beautifully laid out, with an eye for detail, and offers a selection of delicious homemade and locally-produced food and gifts. Pride of place is given to Home Farm’s own award-winning Aberdeen Angus beef, known for its distinctly light and grassy flavour due to the mineral-rich farmland situated alongside the River Ouse flood plain where the cattle graze. The beef was recently awarded a Fine Farm Produce Award from the National Trust.


The Own & Local Award: Knitsley Farm Shop, Co Durham


Knitsley Farm Shop opened in 2008 with the intention, like many farm shops, of creating a more opportunistic outlet for the farm’s own produced meat. Since then, however, the ‘own and local’ tenet has been taken so much to heart that almost everything that can possibly be produced onsite, is; from award-winning pork brawn boiled from pigs’ heads, to homemade artisan breads which flies off the shelves, to chorizo and cured meats. Whatever the team at Knitsley cannot make (which isn’t much it seems) is sourced as locally as possible.




Best Small Farm Shop: Church Farm Shop, Nottinghamshire

Sponsored by Reddipak

Located in the centre of South Scarle village, Church Farm Shop is many things to many people - farm shop, food hub, post office, café and meeting point. Customers come to collect their LPG gas bottles and parcels as much as their carrots and milk. The mixed arable farm attached to the business produces vegetables and flowers for the farm shop, most notably asparagus and daffodils which attract a large amount of customers and local media coverage each Spring. Root vegetables, leeks, onions and brassicas are supplemented by local growers, including surplus from amateur gardeners and allotmenteers.

Church farm also produces free range eggs and Christmas poultry, as well as a few cattle which are occasionally slaughtered for a speciality ‘one day beef shop’.

For farm shop owner Anita Clements, the Church Farm Shop is all about providing unique, homegrown specialities and bringing some of the excitement and personal touches back to shopping,


Best on-farm Café-Restaurant: Rhug Estate Farm Shop & Café, Denbighshire

Sponsored by Cawston Press

The Rhug Estate began selling its meat to the public through a small farm shop and roadside takeaway in 2003, quickly building a national reputation for exceptional quality, and becoming a supplier to some of the UK’s top restaurants and chefs. In 2011, a new purpose built farm shop and restaurant were built to showcase not only the Estate’s organic meat, but many high quality local and Welsh products.

The famous takeaway has been given a makeover, and serves delicious hotpots, sandwiches and home produced organic burgers, sausages and bacon in locally baked baps, cooked on bespoke charcoal grills to enhance their flavour. The new Bistro, "The Bison Grill" sets a different pace, with ambient lighting, fireside, and a selection of comfortable seating, with seasonal dishes served up by Michelin Star trained Executive Chef Chris Harrod and his team.


Best Farm Retail Newcomer: Hopetoun Farm Shop, West Lothian

Sponsored by G7 Computer Services

A committed ‘field to fork’ approach meant a dramatic return to livestock farming on the Estate after a 15 year absence. Today, Aberdeen Angus beef, several breeds of lamb, Ross chickens and Kelly Bronze turkeys are all reared at Hopetoun and sold through the farm shop. In season customers can also buy an impressive selection of Estate game; venison, rabbit, hare, pheasant, grouse, partridge and wood pigeon. In total more than 80% of the produce on offer in the farm shop comes from Scotland, and more than half from within 50 miles of the shop; and all this has been achieved in less than two years of trading.


Best on-farm Butchery: Welbeck Farm Shop, Nottinghamshire

Sponsored by EBLEX

The Welbeck Estate is a hubbub of local food production and a haven for producers and craftsmen. Home to the internationally acclaimed School of Artisan Foods, Welbeck also houses a patisserie, bakery, brewery and creamery which all produce food for the farm shop, including the highly esteemed raw-milk blue Stichelton cheese.

Central to the farm shop mix is an eight metre butchery counter staffed by an excellent craft butchery team. The Estate Farmers’ own lamb, beef, pork and game (from Sherwood Forest!) are all featured, along with local poultry. These are served as ready prepared plain, marinated or stuffed cuts, or made into the popular ‘rainbow’ sausages, pies, pastries, or cooked meats for the deli counter. Care is taken to cater for customers’ differing tastes (pork chops, for example can by bought with more or less fat on), and the knowledgeable and friendly staff will happily prepare cuts to order, encourage you to browse, and offer advice on cooking methods for even the more unusual cuts.



Environmental Farm Retail of the Year: Cross Lanes Organic Farm, Co Durham

Sponsored by Ecover

A commitment to sustainable retail practices penetrates every aspect of the business, from the green farm shop roof grazed by Hebridean sheep to the air-source heat pumps, solar panels, straw bale wall insulation, rainwater harvesting system providing water to flush the toilets which then feed into a reed bed. Toilet doors and vanity units are made from recycled plastic bottles and there is a modern composting toilet outside which is cleverly housed in a medieval style timber framed heather thatched hovel with 4 new electric car charging points alongside.

The Cross Lanes Farm is slowly being transformed to horticultural use along with a reclaimed commercial greenhouse to supply an impressive range of fruit, vegetables and herbs for the farm shop and restaurant. In 2013 these will be supplemented with organic beef, pork and lamb from family farms. Bread, cakes, fudge, ice cream, pies, roast meats, bacon, sausages and burgers are already made onsite, and the rest of the food on offer in the cafe and shop is almost all from local farmers and suppliers.

Broom House Farm

Best on-farm Destination: Broom House Farm, Co Durham

The Broom House Farm motto is “Fun, Food and Farming”. The story begins and ends with the farm which is home to cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. So whilst business owners Mark and Jane Gray were keen to provide visitors with a fun day out, they were determined that it included a taste of real farm life and helped them better understand the food they were buying and eating.

The result is a Butchery, Café and Forest Adventure Trail, plus a host of educational visits with a difference which now attract some 4000 school children each year.



Deck the Shelves with Local Food!

When the final toffee apple has been eaten and the pumpkin has disintegrated into the ground, it is time to turn our attention to the biggest seasonal foodie occasion of them all: Christmas!

It’s the one time of year where most people push the boat out where food is concerned, and for the most delicious, fresh, and locally produced fare, and some great seasonal offers, you can’t beat a trip to a good farm shop or farmers’ market. Buying local means you can trust what’s on your family’s plate on Christmas Day, and for the season.

Many farm shops and farmers’ markets will be delighted to welcome you and take orders for Christmas turkeys with all the trimmings as well as cakes, pies, puddings – right through to naturally grown Christmas trees, holly and mistletoe to make your home special for the season.

Buying local means buying fresh - vegetables that stay in the ground during these colder days develop a deeper flavour. So for the freshest carrots, parsnips and sprouts, buy local. And don't forget turkeys and other poultry and game direct from the farm that taste just spectacular!

Finding great local foods this season is easy - use our map, farmers' market calendar, or farm retail directory. Some farmers’ markets run special dates in the month of December, so be sure to search and check the dates out before setting off.

Farm shops are open six or seven days a week leading into Christmas and this is an important time for them, so please go support your local farm shops and farmers' markets.

Check out your nearest farm shop or farmers’ market by putting in your postcode, just click here to call up the map and use the search box at the bottom-left of the map.

Eat Scottish!

Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight is the annual celebration of the country's fantastic produce which takes place every September.

Managed by Scotland Food & Drink since 2009, the festival is now well established with more than 200 events taking place across the country at farm shops, food festivals, Farmers' Markets, visitor attractions and restaurants. Look out for a range of activities from in-store tastings to special events and menus.

Visit the website to find out about events near you or search the website for Scottish farm shops and local food retailers.


Organic September

Acorn FarmOrganic food is controversial.

Yet again this week a study has shown that the nutrition content of organic food is pretty much the same in conventional food. However, organic is about so much more than vitamins.

Organic food is produced by farming systems which work with nature; are kind to animals; avoid using pesticides; and ban GM ingredients. It all sounds very sensible in this day and age, but pause a moment and think back barely a few decades to when intense, pesticide and herbicide driven farming was the encouraged norm.

There is no doubt that the organic movement, spearheaded by the Soil Association in this country, has had a big impact on today's farming principles and consumer expectations. We are by no means out of the water, but alongside the local food movement, organics has been the inspiration behind the still increasing numbers of conventional as well as fully certified organic farms choosing to work in a way that is kinder to the soil, the animals and the people they serve. For many people, organic principles are the only way forward in the face of a global food crisis where they believe the alternative prospect of GM crops will ultimately do more harm than good.

This September is a great chance to find out more about what Organic really means for you and the future of the food on your plate, the chance to challenge yourself to shop and eat better.

Visit the Organic September website for ideas on everything from growing your own to beekeeping, shopping on a budget to conscientious dining out.

Plus Sign up to support Organic growers and producers by signing a pledge to put one more organic product in your weekly shopping basket, or take part in a survey on the availability of organic products where you shop and win a hamper full of goodies.



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