Jack Forster - 11 March 2011
Our organic shop is attracting lots of local people from many different backgrounds, but all with a common passion for good quality, environmentally friendly food! All the beef and lamb that is sold buy us has been reared on the fields with the sun on its back and we believe that’s why people keep coming back.
Mainly due to not having enough hands on deck, the shop has remained a butchery so far, but I am keen to develop it into a more diverse farm shop. I have decided to buy some eggs from a local farmer to sell through the shop, which are very tasty and are going down very well with the customers. We are thinking of doing a breakfast deal too – sausage, egg and bacon packs (if I don’t eat them all first!).
You really can taste the difference in good eggs, and I feel sorry for the large-scale free range egg producers who have their prices dictated by higher powers. I noted a 5p/dozen decrease in egg prices in the Farmers Weekly last week, despite the fact that cereal prices are high. This is the problem with commercial farming, and why we have tried to cut out the middle men by selling our own meat from the farm gate and farmers markets. If every household could find the time to locate a local supplier such as a farm shop, I think they would be pleasantly surprised at how cheap good food can be. Yes ‘Tesco Value’ and ‘BOGOF’ deals are always going to be cheaper, but surely there is a reason for that, and unfortunately it is a sacrifice of quality. Watching one of the River Cottage Programmes earlier I learnt that ‘cheap chicken’ form commercial intensive farms is actually just as fatty as eating a cheap burger!! The problem with free range organic chicken is that for it to reach maturity for meat they are older and bigger, making them seem more expensive. Surely you are getting more for your money though? I have gone off on a bit of a tangent there, but it is the same with all kinds of meat. Exercise and sun on their backs in pasture gives organic animals a much better taste and more nutritional value.
Anyway, back to the new ventures! My fiancée Danni has always been a good cook, and she has just found that she has a knack for making jam too! So I promptly bought a hundred jam jars as a ‘surprise’ and set her the challenge of making some jam to sell in the shop. Rasberry, Strawberry, Blackberry and Apple jam, and Lemon Curd have now all been made, and unfortunately have to be sampled… it’s a tough job but someone has to do it!
I would also like to set up a small petting zoo, but an instructional one to teach children about where their food comes from. It seems that a lot of children don’t recognize a burger as coming from a bullock, and I think it needs to change. I would like to set up some sessions for school groups, so if anyone has any info on that feel free to comment below! One idea I saw which I thought was great was that the farmer had divided a field into segments like a pizza, and in each segment there was an ingredient. Wheat growing for the base, a pig for the ham, a cow for the cheese etc. etc.
Watch this space to see how I get on!
Jack is a professional rugby player with Sale Sharks, but also has an active role in his family's farm in St Helens. The family are fourth generation farmers and and own two Soil Association licensed organic farms. All the cattle and sheep that are reared on the farm are butchered through the on farm butchery, and sold to local people through the farm shop, local deliveries and local farmers' markets. Jack is a keen supporter of British farming and wants to encourage more people to 'buy local and think organic'. He studied agriculture at Hartpury College and aims to go back into farming when he retires from rugby.
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17 March 2011 14:07
Thanks for the comments fellas. Any help is appreciated, and I received an email from Rupert the other day so should start things moving.
Tim Perrett - SA Producer Advisor
15 March 2011 17:39
Hi JackGreat to read how your getting on. Quite agree with your comments regarding meat. You are what you eat and viewing 'meat as a treat' in your diet ensure you always buy the best quality produce from the highest welfare systems aka - organic.I've passed your query regarding setting up school groups to one of team, expect an email soon.Keep up the good work on and off the farm! CheersTim
15 March 2011 17:33
Great blog Jack, very interesting to hear your ideas on diversification. And if you're interested in setting up visits with children our Soil Association Farm Network team has a lot of experience in this area. I'm not sure their direct number but if you phone our switch board 0117 314 5000 and ask for the farm links team, they should be able to help.
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