At present the farm is producing arable crops, beef and lamb. Our most successful diversifications to date have been the Farm Shop and our Chiltern Cold Pressed rapeseed Oil, which is grown, pressed and bottled by us at Wilstone Great Farm. Many of you will only have known our Shop as it stands today but some may well remember its humble beginnings.
Back in the 1960’s it started as a tea trolley by the side of the road with an honesty box selling in season fruit and vegetables that were home grown and eggs that were produced on the farm.
At this time David, Geoff and Harry Mead were running the Farm and they gradually expanded the vegetable growing as demand was good. Sadly the honesty box system had to go and a larger cart that could be wheeled in and out of the shed became “The Stall” which was staffed by many local people, names that come to mind are Arthur Edwards and Deborah Rance. Working outside in all weathers!
The 1970’s were the peak of our vegetable production when everyone had deep freezers to fill with in season vegetables. The dawn of the Supermarkets with their all year round availability put pressure on the viability of the stall. In the mid 1980’s a decision was made to build a proper shop so that other items could be stocked. Simon’s sister Sarah took on the running of the new shop with the help of David and her Uncle Geoff who by then was going to Bedford to buy vegetables, as we could no longer grow our own. Soon we were selling plants, compost, logs and pet food.
By 2000 Simon and Jenny had taken on the shop and plans were made to renovate the 17 th century barn that was in a state of disrepair. A grant was sought to help with the cost and luckily we had a brother-in-law Michael Spinks that could do the work. Since then we have gone from strength to strength adding two more small extensions.
Our aim has always been to support as many local producers as we could by selling their products alongside our own Home Produced beef and lamb. We currently stock products from around 40 local producers including Potash Farm Chickens, Heygates flour and Ashridge honey and all our local producers have done a great job at keeping us supplied under difficult circumstances this year.
2005 saw the start of our Christmas food evenings which we all enjoy and which for obvious reasons we are unable to hold this year. All our usual Christmas stock is in the shop and we will soon be taking orders for Potash Farms Free Range Turkeys. 2020 has certainly been a challenging time for us at the shop, it was not built with a global pandemic in mind and we have had to change the way we operate to allow for social distancing and to adhere to other government guidelines. Alex was able to quickly set up a system for online ordering for key workers and those who were isolating and the hard work and dedication of our staff got us through.
A fun lockdown fact:
In the ten weeks before lockdown we sold 380kg of Heygates flour in 1.5kg bags. In the first ten weeks of lockdown we sold 13.5 tonnes of Heygates flour in 1.5kg bags.
Credit should go to Heygates who did a great job in keeping us supplied when they were under immense pressure. Proof that building relationships with local producers really works.
By Simon Mead