Essex farm shops: 6 of the best
- Credit: Archant
Essex is home to a goldmine of excellent farm shops, as local farmers and producers diversify to bring the freshest, local fayre direct to customers
1. Greenstead Farm Shop, Halstead
Sarah Cockley has been working hard to spread the word about Greenstead Farm Shop and its restaurant.
‘It’s a great job as we do a lot of stuff here. We now have a bigger restaurant with homemade food, we also supply a huge range of locally-sourced Essex produce and we sell homemade ready meals, sausage rolls and quiches, plus plenty of fresh cheeses, hams and chutneys.’
The shop and restaurant opened five years ago and the restaurant has already been extended so that it can now cater for 50 people, whether for breakfast, lunch or afternoon teas. It is also open for dining one evening a month and this month it’s an American themed evening with the menu featuring children’s options too to accommodate families.
Greenstead Farm Shop is open seven-days-a-week selling meats, local bread, cakes, cheeses, deli goods, specialty oils, specialty teas, preserves and frozen goods, plus gifts and artworks from local artists.
Greenstead Green, Halstead CO9 1QY; 01787 472807; facebook.com/Greenstead
2. Calcott Hall Farm Shop, Brentwood
The McTurks have been farming at Calcott Hall for more than 35 years. Peter McTurk grew up on the 140-acre farm (equivalent to about 70 football pitches) with his three brothers. He left the family business to become a surveyor and then returned to the business eight years ago.
‘My parents encouraged all of us to go off into the world and experience new things, but it was always in the back of my mind that I would come back at some point. It was a hectic time as I got married and moved house in the same month.’
The family renovated an old Essex barn in 1983 and have gradually used more and more of it as the needs of the shop have grown. Peter is MD of the shop and Dan Hunt is the general manager. Peter’s brother, Stuart, also looks after the farm and the shop with David Neall head of farming and Peter’s father, Andrew, still working there too.
A 30-strong team of full and part-time staff work to keep the farm shop stocked and open six-days-a-week (closed on a Monday) offering a wide range of seasonal produce from the farm. In January it will be brussel sprouts, cabbages, beetroot, pumpkins, shallots and red onions, plus NS Risdon Butchery offering a quality butchery service there too. They have also recently opened the Barnyard Cafe where you can purchase breakfast or lunch between Tuesday and Saturday.
Ongar Road, Brentwood, CM15 9HS 01277 264164; calcotthall.com
3. The Veg Box, Southend on Sea
Pippa Crane began her rustic farm shop three years ago with an ambition to bring fresh, seasonal, local fruit and vegetables to the people of Southend on Sea. Pippa explains: ‘It was three years ago, just two weeks before Christmas, when the snow came down and no one wanted to venture out too far, so it gave us a real boost and a great start to the shop opening.’
As well as the shop - which has now moved online - Pippa also runs the Essex Herb Company and her own Veg Box round. Previously she was a wine specialist for Waitrose. ‘When I started the Veg Box scheme, initially I ran it from my own kitchen doing everything myself; the sourcing, the packing and the deliveries.’ Now she’s helped by a couple of friends.
‘I jokingly call us Mate-rose as they also come from the same background as me, ex-Waitrose. I needed premises as the business grew and I found a beautiful little shop with all the facilities I needed to run the shop and the Veg Box scheme. It’s built up gradually and it’s evolved with me and now I’ve just purchased a Morris Minor van to help us with the deliveries, which we do from the shop every Thursday. Now I also have a driver and so my job is to organise the rounds.’
Each week Pippa supplies over 30 boxes in the area, while also stocking the shop with local honey and free range eggs, naturally-grown English herb plants and wild flowers, artisan fine food products, quality cooking ingredients and quirky gift ideas.
76 Lonsdale Road, Southend on Sea, SS2 4LR; 07793 317207; theessexherbcompany.co.uk
4. Blackwells Farm Shop, Coggeshall
Howard Blackwell, the 2013 winner of the Essex Life Fine Food & Drink Food Hero award, is the fourth generation of Blackwells to run Herons Farm near Coggeshall. The farm shop also won Farm Shop of the Year at the Essex Life Fine Food & Drink Awards and is committed to providing produce which is locally sourced, with 90% of it coming from within a 20-mile radius of the farm. For many years it focused on farm fresh geese and turkeys for the Christmas market.
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However, in 2004 the Rare Breed Meet Company was born to supply high quality, locally-produced meat with a full provenance back to its local source. The shop, which opened in spring 2008, has a good range of traditional hams and cooked meats, plus continental salami and chorizo and cheeses.
‘We do push the boundaries with our cheese to stock some firm favourites from across Europe as well as some great English cheeses,’ explains Howard. There are also local fruit and vegetables to choose from. ‘Our main supplier from Tolleshunt D’Arcy brings us the best, traditionally-grown, seasonal veg while our asparagus and soft fruit come from Aldham, Manningtree, Ardleigh, Sible Hedingham and Wickham. We also stock breads, pies, chutneys plus local wines and beers, and our free range chickens come from Saffron Walden, again to ensure great local quality.’
Herons Farm, Colne Road, Coggeshall, CO6 1TQ; 01376 562500; blackwellsfarmproduce.co.uk
5. Lathcoats Farm, Chelmsford
Home to third generation fruit farmers, Philip and Stephen Taylor, Lathcoats is one of the few remaining Essex fruit farms. They have also been winners of Farm Shop of the Year in the Essex Life Food & Drink Awards. The first apple trees were planted by the brothers’ grandfather, Lawrence, while living in the 14th century Lathcoats farmhouse. His son Maurice followed in his father’s footsteps as his boys grew up amid the orchards.
As adults the boys took over running the farm and now there’s a fourth generation of the family who has joined the family business. Philip’s nephew James Taylor is a trained physiotherapist. 18 months ago he joined the farm on a full-time basis.
In August 2020 they began picking the traditional Essex-based Discovery apples. In all, Lathcoats grow 10 varieties of apple, with Cox and Gala being the most popular.
There's also the Bee Shed Coffee House, which offers breakfasts, lunches and homemade cakes, plus a takeaway service from the Bee Shed Hatch with some seating available in the Apple Pickers Barn near the animals.
Beehive Lane, Galleywood, Chelmsford CM2 8LX; 01245 353021; eapples.co.uk
6. Deersbrook Farm, Braintree
Winner of the Pride of Essex Award at the Essex Life Food & Drink Awards 2019, Deersbrook Farm in Shalford Green has a well-stocked farm shop. It’s run by farmer Anna Blumfield and offers plenty of delicious local produce from artisan producers.
‘We are so proud to produce the finest native, grass-fed beef,' says Anna. 'We supply our butchery with beef and pork, then stock our friends’ amazing Herdwick lamb, free range chicken, turkey, goose, duck, wild venison, rabbit and game (in season) as well as local vegetables, spice mixes, sauces, wine and ales too.’
The farm shop is open six days a week (closed on Wednesdays) and provides popular meat boxes – 100% grass fed, 28-day matured beef and rare breed pork which all come with a spice mix and recipe cards each month. If you sign up to a year’s worth of regular deliveries, you’ll get your final box free of charge and they offer national delivery.
Using traditional farming methods, the Deersbrook Farm cattle graze out on the meadows all year round. They also became the very first farm in Essex to be certified as 100% grass-fed cattle, certified by Pasture for Life Association.
Littles Lane, Shalford Green, Braintree CM7 5AZ; 01371 851271; deersbrookfarm.com
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