Stock up on local produce from Harkers Farm Shop this Christmas
Christmas starts early at Harkers Farm Shop as preparations begin to make sure the shelves remain fully stocked with the beef, lamb, turkey, goose and chicken which is reared on the farm.
Added to the 600 turkeys and the geese which are reared specifically for the Christmas market, this means that the rush in the run up to Christmas is relentless. Harkers is one of the very few remaining turkey farmers in the area and are proud to sell their home-reared products at the farm shop. It is unique because it holds a licence to slaughter poultry on the farm ensuring the whole process from hatching to rearing creates absolutely no food miles.
The wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and cakes, jams and condiments and of course the hallmark meat which brings so many customers to Harkers is a far cry from the shop’s humble beginnings.
Rupert Harker, who runs the farm shop with his wife Tracy, said: “My father, Tom, is now 87 but he started the business with a door to door chicken and egg delivery. In those days, he would collect up the old laying hens to sell for the table but people are much fussier now.”
Tracy recalls how the farm has changed since she moved there more than 25 years ago.
She said: “In those days it was just a butchery but we have progressed slowly to where we are now. The Harkers are also keen to make a visit to the shop a fun day out for the family. We have built a toddler tractor park and last year we constructed the aviary. The kids can feed the animals so essentially we are like a farm attraction except visitors don’t have to pay.”
Although the farm shop is now the visible focus for the family, the farm is still very much at the heart of what they do.
Rupert says: “We have a herd of 120 cattle which are Hereford cross and Aberdeen Angus. My father still goes to market every week and buys calves & store calves which we finish off on the farm before we put them through the shop. We are almost self-sufficient in beef and lamb.”
Meanwhile, Rupert is also delighted that his 17-year-old son, Samuel, is taking a keen interest in the farm.
“Samuel half owns a mixed flock of Suffolk and Dorset ewes which are put to a Charolais tup; this gives us a smallish lamb which is ideal for the shop, ” he said.
“We lamb early in January and February and so we have spring lamb which is very popular with our restaurant customers.”
The pressure to grow is mounting as the business goes from strength to strength but Tracy and Rupert agree that any decision to expand further would need to be taken very carefully.
“People seem to like what we do,” says Tracy.
“We’ve got regular customers who have been coming to us for thirty years; we know them all by name and the butchers in the shop know exactly what they like. If we were to get too big, we would run the risk of losing this connection with our customers.”
This year, Harkers is also taking on a Christmas tree enterprise formerly owned and operated by a neighbouring farmer which means customers can now buy almost all their yuletide essentials in one place. For further information visit the website.