Having moved into a new area recently we set about trying to find somewhere we liked, close by, to purchase locally sourced meat and veg etc. We stumbled across Ashley Farm Shop, in Ashley, near Market Harborough and the inspiration for this blog feature was born!
The enterprise is definitely a family affair, with the farm shop run by Gill, and her parents, Ian and Sue, running the farm. There are often many reasons why farmers may open a farm shop, however with their experience at Farmers Markets selling herbs and bird food, and with a newborn baby to look after, Gill felt it was the right time to set up shop 9 years ago! I have to say I’m glad she did.
Gill admits that when they first started, they didn’t have much to offer. There was no bank loan as they didn’t want to start in debt, and the shop has gone ‘from strength to strength’ growing over time as their client base expanded. Living in the Welland Valley with good grass makes it easy to fatten lambs and cattle, the good grass gives the meat a great taste and encourages a loyal following of customers. Gill is proud that the shop can offer customers ‘local, good quality, and reasonably priced products, with full traceability’. It’s not just the lamb and beef products that are produced on-site (with Gill herself helping out the butcher twice a week, ‘packing and learning!’). Gill’s mum Sue makes most of the cakes and biscuits herself, and they also offer a large range of cooked meats, pork pies, sausages, burgers, lasagnes, cottage and shepherds’ pies. If it is something that they can’t produce themselves, the farm shop supports plenty of local businesses by supplying their customers with a fine selection of fruit and veg, chutneys, wine, beers, jams, gins and breads. However, if you’re looking for something a little less consumable, they still produce a popular range of birdseed, and sell a wide variety of herbs and other plants.
The farm is 150 acres, currently running 280 ewes, alongside Dexters, Aberdeen Angus and North Devon cattle. They also have approximately 250 laying hens who wander the farm, and the eggs are sold in the shop. The farm is also part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, helping to promote and support a variety of wildlife throughout the farm. The family had experience selling beef and lamb before opening the shop, which meant regular trips to market. Now, all their meat goes into supplying the shop, and Gill admits they are lucky as they can set their own prices for their produce, a luxury not all farmers have.
Although the shop itself is relatively small, I couldn’t believe the amount of stock they had to offer! Definitely not a place to be judged on size! (I can highly recommend the Baileys torte, although I’m informed it’s not always a regular feature, and the tomatoes were the best I’ve had in months.) If you’re in the area I would highly recommend a visit to the shop, we spent 10 minutes just deciding what meat we wanted to have that evening! If you’re a little further afield, but still interested in what the shop has to offer, visit their website at http://www.ashleyherbfarm.co.uk/.