Hampshire Fare turns 25: Meet the producers

The pigs at Greenfield Pork

The pigs at Greenfield Pork - Credit: Archant

In celebration of our local county food group reaching a quarter of a century, Nancy Judge chats to the producers that owe their business success to Hampshire Fare

Martin and Tom Martindale at Greenfield Pork

Martin and Tom Martindale at Greenfield Pork - Credit: Archant

Cheese, wine, sausages, chocolate, pies, jams, chutneys, juice, beer, gin, charcuterie – the list of award-winning produce coming out of Hampshire goes on. The county is fast becoming known nationally for its food and drink credentials, a message which is a priority for local food group, Hampshire Fare.

Back in 1991 a handful of Hampshire farmers came together to spread the word about the local food and drink being produced in the county. It was a simple idea which has since had a far-reaching impact.

25 years later and Hampshire Fare now consists of over 370 members still working together to promote that same message that local is best. Now operating as a not-for-profit organisation, Hampshire Fare brings opportunities, routes to markets, promotion and advice to its members.

Tracy Nash manages the team at Hampshire Fare and sees first-hand the work that goes on behind-the-scenes: “We see the passion and hard work that goes into rearing, growing, making and serving this produce. We embrace this drive and add it to our enthusiasm and then do all we can to support their work.

“Hampshire Fare’s 25th anniversary is a big milestone. Our work is made possible thanks to the support of our sponsors, our members and all those consumers actively engaged in the vibrant Hampshire food scene. We’re a passionate team full of ideas and see this as just the beginning.”

Tim and Anne Butler at Lavender Fields at Hartley Park Farm

Tim and Anne Butler at Lavender Fields at Hartley Park Farm - Credit: Archant

Martin and Tom Martindale, Greenfield Pork

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Martin surveys his pigs as they snuffle around in the soil. He admits he doesn’t get out to the fields as much as he used to as he now leaves much of the farming to his son Tom whilst he focuses on the retail side of the business.

Martin has been working in the pig industry for over forty years. He’s been through the ups and downs: “I’m not sure how we have managed to survive at times. I’ve just driven forwards knowing I have to make a living for my family, but there have been moments when we have been close to losing everything.”

For Martin and Tom, maintaining high standards are key however tough the challenges they face. The name Greenfield Pork says it all.

These pigs live outdoors all year round and benefit immeasurably from all that brings with it. The sunlight, fresh air and exercise add to the flavour and quality of the meat.

“It was some 18 or so years ago after the pig crisis in the 1990’s that we decided to move away from commercial pig production” explains Martin. “We realised how superior our product was and that we needed to be selling as just that, a high welfare and top quality meat. It was around that time that Hampshire Fare approached us about becoming members. Our involvement with Hampshire Fare has been so positive for our business. It has provided us with a shop window.”

Owton's Butchers has been running since 1976

Owton's Butchers has been running since 1976 - Credit: Archant

The enticing smell of a Greenfield Pork Hog Roast often welcomes market goers as queues form for one of their mouth-watering pork rolls. This is the time when those in the know stock up on Martin’s award-winning sausages.

“The Great Hampshire Sausage and Pie Competition organised by Hampshire Fare has been an invaluable help to us in raising awareness of what we do. We’ve won it three times and had the chance to represent the county at the national competition.”

At the moment things are looking up and demand for their meat has led Martin and Tom to apply for LEADER funding to help open a farm shop at the butchery in Anna Valley near Andover. Martin explains: “We have wanted to open a shop for a while now but this has only recently become possible after hearing via Hampshire Fare about available funding. We are really excited about what having our own shop will mean for business. Tom is currently building up a small flock of sheep which will be an additional line for the farm shop.”

Look out for Greenfield Pork at Stockbridge Country Market, Hampshire Farmers’ Markets and other events across the county.

Find out more at www.greenfield-pork.co.uk

Tim and Anne Butler, Lavender Fields at Hartley Park Farm

Hartley Park Farm had always been a traditional mixed farm. For three generations Tim’s family kept cattle and grew grain, hops and vegetables. In 2001 this all changed when Tim and Anne took the brave decision to change the direction of the farm. Sitting at the farmhouse table, Tim and Anne reminisce about meeting at ‘Young Farmers’ before marrying in 1974. Anne was brought up in a farming family so was familiar with the set up when they moved into the farmhouse at Hartley Park Farm. It wasn’t until after the BSE crisis in the nineties that they began investigating alternative ways to run the farm.

“We changed over to lavender gradually in 2001 after being involved in growing it with a friend near Whitchurch” recalls Anne. “We introduced it alongside our other farming and then slowly made it the main focus. We were in search of something that took away the worry and threat of another farming crisis. It’s been challenging and has taken time but we have built up a successful business.”

One of the busiest times of year for the farm is July when the gates open to the public and offer tours of the lavender fields and distillery with tractor rides, talks, cream teas, massages and more. Tim reflects: “We get a real buzz from welcoming the visitors to the farm and showing them what goes on here. It’s lovely to see people enjoying the fields and also the products made from the lavender grown here. For us, being a member of Hampshire Fare means we can focus on being the family-run business that we are whilst Hampshire Fare helps to raise awareness of what we do. There is a really good demand for local products in Hampshire and a great community that comes with it.”

There is no need to book, visit www.thelavenderfields.co.uk for more details. The onsite gift shop is open all year round.

Rob and Gill Owton, Owtons Butchers

Farming is in Rob Owton’s blood. His family have been farming for over 600 years at Chalcroft farm. Early in his career Rob opted to work in the meat wholesale side of the business with his father, and in 1976 Rob and his wife Gill founded Owton’s Traditional Family Butchers.

Gill remembers those early days: “We had just one lorry and no premises. The market was a competitive one with thirteen other meat wholesalers established in the Southampton area. Driven by a determination to succeed we were always prepared to go the extra mile. Soon we had a reputation for our excellent service - people knew we would deliver on time and source whatever they needed. It’s that high standard of service that means we are the only surviving wholesaler in the area and we still work with some of those first customers.”

This year marks 40 years of Owtons…and there is a lot to celebrate! But, as Gill says, when you run a business it’s easy to forget to stand back and recognise just what you have achieved. They have gone from no premises to four shops with a fifth due to open in Andover later this year. They have built a close working relationship with Fuller’s which has seen product collaborations and cooking competitions for aspiring young cooks.

Owtons have been members of Hampshire Fare for almost twenty years and Gill can remember being approached to become part of the food group: “We joined as the first butchers. And what’s more we entered the first Hampshire Sausage and Pie Competition run by the group, and we were crowned Supreme Champions!

“Hampshire Fare has benefited our business massively. It has helped to get our name out there and we are so proud to be members. Every county should have a food group like Hampshire Fare, for us it is like a diving board behind you supporting you and propelling you to jump into new things.”

Owtons remains a family affair with one son involved in the farming side and the other two in the wholesale side of the business. One of their granddaughters recently worked at the butchers as one of the many apprentices Owtons helps to train and support each year. When asked if there are any plans to retire Gill admits she’d miss it.

“I have reduced my hours in recent years but for now we have no plans to stop. We enjoy it too much, the people and the busy atmosphere. It’s all we’ve known for 40 years.”

Owtons Butchers are located at Chalcroft Farm, Kimbridge, Country Market and Garsons, www.owtons.com

Visit www.hampshirefare.co.uk to find out more about the latest local food news, events and competitions. Also follow @HampshireFare and www.facebook.com/hampshirefare. Look out for the annual Hampshire Food Festival taking place in July with over 70 food and farming events happening across the county. Making, serving or selling local produce? Contact info@hampshirefare.co.uk to find out about becoming a member.

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