Award goes to sustainable and diverse farm-based retailer

Knitsley Farm Shop, winner of the Rural Enterprise Award, sponsored by Strutt & Parker in the Food & Farming Industry Awards 2015, impressed the judges with the way that everything that is produced on the farm is sold through the farm shop and restaurant.

With an ethos of Local, Seasonal and Traditional Knitsley farmshop are a success both now and can see a sustainable future.

Edward Jewson is the sixth successive generation on the farm and runs it with the help of his father, and also runs the farm shop and restaurant in conjunction with wife Rachael. “The business has developed in such a way that everything that is produced on the farm is sold through the farm shop and restaurant,” explains Rachel. “This is the greatest vision Edward ever could have had. It means that he is producing, processing, adding value, marketing and delivering great customer care through our dedicated team. We believe we have also added something great to the community, providing 24 full time jobs and 23 part time jobs, and a central ‘hub’ where people can shop, meet and enjoy the atmosphere.”

“Our ethos is Local, Seasonal and Traditional – and it is these values we aim to stick to, using traditional values and experience to guide modern practices, giving people a transparent link to their food production where in other areas of the industry this is being continually eroded,” she says. “Edward’s passion is evident throughout the business and our drive will hopefully ensure the longevity of the business and home farm.”

East Knitsley Grange farm is, and has always been, in the last 300 years a mixed farm with a strong emphasis on livestock production. The farm is 220 acres in size made up of predominantly grassland. The farm lies within the lowlands of North West Durham and stands at around 600ft above sea level. The soil type is a clay loam and generally heavy and reasonably difficult to work.

There are 40 suckler cows with followers, a 275 head breeding ewe flock, and a small fattening and breeding system for pigs. The farm grows some 30 acres of spring barley which is used purely for livestock feed and animal bedding.

“Knitsley Farm Shop was launched on 4th November 2008, so this year will celebrate our seventh anniversary,” explains Rachael Jewson. “The 254 metre square retail premises, preparation areas and restaurant are all part of redundant and disused farm buildings on East Knitsley Grange Farm.”

The idea behind setting up a shop in the first place was primarily to create an outlet for the farm’s own meat. “The butchery is the mainstay of the shop and represents at present over half the turnover of the business,” she says. “That proportion is increasing all the time.”

The shop also seeks to compliment the butchery by providing a range of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, cakes, biscuits, drinks and ice creams most of which are locally produced. “The restaurant was set up to take advantage of a further value added opportunity, by further processing and serving our own produce in a warm and friendly environment,” she says.

“As supply is greater than demand for the lamb produced then surplus is sold on via the live auction system,” she explains. “We experience seasonal supply gaps for the beef and the lamb for the shop in which case we buy cattle and sheep from our neighbouring farms with whom we have an excellent working relationship and whom supply us with excellent and similar product.”

“All animals are selected personally by Edward ‘on the hoof’ and are taken direct to slaughter in small numbers by ourselves,” she says. “We and our customers are both very comfortable with this arrangement.”

“It is immensely satisfying to have produced the livestock from the land which is eventually then served in the restaurant for customers’ enjoyment,” she says. “Within our main lines we are committed to our ‘own and local’ approach and this has been strengthened by our customers’ response to our home produced items, which has in turn driven our development of the business.”

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