The Producers… Carpenters Farm Shop, Aingers Green

Carpenters Farm Shop owners Fiona and David Morton

Carpenters Farm Shop owners Fiona and David Morton - Credit: Archant

Carpenters Farm is run by Fiona and David Morton, with David being the fourth generation of his family to farm there. Upon leaving Writtle Agricultural College, David began working on the farm for his father. That was more than 25 years ago and now the couple run the farm, a thriving farm shop and a recently-opened restaurant too. The restaurant is set in an 18th century converted barn and run by head chef Evan Marshall (previously from Dedham’s Maison Talbooth).

Fiona, originally from West Sussex, was a townie when she first met David. ‘I was 18 and on holiday in Corfu,’ she explains. ‘I was training to become a nurse at Guys Hospital and it soon became clear I would have to move closer to David if we were going to be together. There was never any walking away from the farm. It’s not a job, it’s a way of life.’ Fiona finished her training in Essex and qualified in Colchester, nursing for 10 years before getting involved in the family business.

Fiona now runs the farm shop, which specialises in home-grown and local foods as well as dairy, wheat and gluten free products. ‘I try to stock everything that people want. We talk to our customers to get feedback – it would be hard to maintain our business if we didn’t.’ There’s also a range of giftwares and bespoke hampers too which Fiona actively sources via local trade fairs and through approaches by local producers.

The couple are currently busier than ever as its asparagus season, a crop they’ve farmed for the past 20 years. ‘It’s all about the rootball, or the crown as it’s known. If that isn’t well established and strong, it won’t push up good quality asparagus.’

The asparagus season is in full swing (it runs from the beginning of April until June 21) and its set to make sure you don’t drain the rootball. The crop is extremely weather dependant and therefore you can’t guarantee a steady crop and that’s what makes the market prices fluctuate.

‘It all has to be cut by hand, every single stalk, which means hours spent bending over,’ adds Fiona. Evan is hoping to go out to the field and cut his own asparagus spears along with his staff to give them a real flavour of the plant and how it’s grown.

And beyond the asparagus season, what’s next? Fiona explains about the latest part of the farm’s expansion plans. ‘At the end of this month we hope to open the other end of the barn as a holiday let,’ says Fiona. ‘We’ve been in the process of refurbishment and now we are almost complete with a beautiful home which sleeps six to eight people. It’s really lovely with plenty of character. There are bespoke oak fittings from our own tree which blew down in a storm, original latch doors and big glass floor-to-ceiling windows which provide spectacular views over the farm. The farm even boasts its own fishing reservoir.’

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