The difference between us and animals is that we cook our food. Cooking and creating from the best ingredients raises food from simple fuel to something of an art form.
My concept of a farm shop was perhaps somewhat naive. Driving up a dirt track off a narrow, tree canopied country lane to be greeted by a cheerful ruddy cheeked farmer selling vegetables freshly pulled from his fields that very morning. I always thought that was the whole point; having your own shop at the place where you grow your food means that the farmer sells direct to the customer without the need for wholesalers, middlemen or supermarkets, thereby making more profit for him and with the added appeal of having fruit and vegetables far fresher than any retailer.
I’ve visited a lot on farm shops on my travels through rural Kent and the West Country. The reality is often different; I arrive and enter with so much anticipation but find they deliver nothing but crushing disappointment.
Many farm shops are just not what they appear to be. Don’t be fooled by the old tractor parked outside, a more careful perusal of the labels inside often reveals nothing but pre-packaged and imported fruit and vegetables. The last time any of this this food saw a farm was probably a week ago in Spain. Another poor excuse for a farm shop even had jars of commercial pasta sauces along with Mama noodles imported from Thailand So much of the produce was neither from the farm nor even from the local area. At another, shrink wrapped cucumber along empty boxes from New Zealand abounded at Wells Stores, Peach Croft Farm near Oxford. Was I expecting too much? All I wanted was a farm shop selling their own farm produce.
After another day of disappointment visiting farm shops in Kent I decided to try one last shop before heading home. Just off the road between Rye and Ashford was Perry Court Farm in Wye. This was not only a shop, but an actual working farm. Set in a number of connected buildings this was everything a farm shop should be. The range of food was amazing, rack upon rack of vegetables and verdant herbs, along with fruits including four different kinds of apples, all available to slice and sample before buying. A feast for the eyes as well as the belly. The prices were reasonable and the service delightful. I left here with baskets of fresh fruit and veg along with a tray of large duck eggs.
My second “real” farm shop was discovered in Somerset. Just outside Taunton I followed the signs through deserted country roads to Moonbeams Farm Shop. Once again this was a fully working farm, concentrating on livestock. The fields behind were full of free roaming cows, sheep and pigs. Everything goes from their fields to the slaughter house, and then bought back to the shop where owner, Jeremy Pitman, prepares and packages the meat in his butchery for sale in the shop.
Every cut of every meat you could wish for was on offer, including homemade sausages and he was beginning to experiment with curing and smoking his own charcuterie products. Jeremy’s enthusiasm was infectious; he’s invested in their products and runs the business with passion. He clearly loves what he does and is proud that he has a “real” farm shop and absolutely shared my gripe about so many others being somewhat fake. Moonbeam also ships meat via their website and attends a number of local farmers markets around Devon.
Perry Court Farm
Open Daily 8am-6pm