What is your family history with the farm?
My father in law John Jackson moved here in 1959 age 21. He came from a family of dairy farmers in Burnley and was the first tenant farmer of the estate since the National Trust acquired the property in the late 50’s and was lucky to be given a three generation Agricultural Tenancy. Whilst initially a successful dairy farm, supermarkets prices hit hard and the dairy business had to come to an end.
So then what happened?
Alistair and myself were virtually left with an empty farm and a few Aberdeen Angus cattle. We began to house other farmers pigs and cattle for keep, whilst our Angus cattle herd slowly grew. We began to sell our beef locally, and picked up a bit of a following — our son Isaac would shout “beef for sale” to passing cars!
Why did you decide to open the farm shop?
For years Alistair and I had always said to each other we should open a shop, as the passing trade of more than 100,000 tourists each year from Beningbrough Hall was a perfect opportunity right on our doorstep. We began work on transforming the Cart Shed into a farm shop. We had no idea about how to open a business, but with sheer determination and a flair for interior design, we managed to transform the space into the Home Farm Beningbrough.
Were there doubts?
After months of groundwork and research we were refused planning permission. This was a huge setback, many believed we were in too isolated a location to be successful and the recession of 2008 had just begun. When we finally did open the shop, I was determined to succeed and constantly sourced new produce to keep it fresh and homely. Slowly, customers began returning and I began making ready meals with our beef which really took off.
The cafe is a huge part of your business now
It became apparent very early on that we needed a cafe to become a destination, to keep customers around for a little longer. The National Trust gave us permission to sell coffees and add some tables, so we began to make a few sandwiches and coffee in paper cups. The kitchen has now rapidly expanded and the farm shop has been extended to allow seating for 30 people. We added our wonderful Shepherd Hut to deal with the demand in summer, serving ice cream and takeaway drinks to passers by.
What have you learned?
I have learned that you have to put everything into the business to make it better — the farm shop and cafe are an extension of my home, and being consistently friendly and warm to our customers makes us different. We’ve kept the quality of our food at the heart of the business; it’s what our customers come back for time and time again.
Why is it important to buy from local farm shops?
It’s so important to know where your food comes from and how far it has travelled, and we can tell you the story behind what you buy here. You are the vital support behind our farms and small local producers, without that support independent farm shops would close.
Are you hoping to expand even further?
We have a list of goals and dreams we aim to achieve. We’ve built this business from one employee to 20, and standing still just isn’t an option for us. We recently won the FARMA Rising Star award, and hope to continue Home Farm’s success for many years to come.
Do you get regulars?
Gordon is our most regular customer, the most delightful 90-something gentleman who cycles in twice a day for a coffee and a chat, he’s become a part of our day.
What’s your best seller?
Our Aberdeen Angus of course! Closely followed by our home baking and wonderful ready meals.
What is your favourite thing on the menu?
I try not to have one too often, but our Home Farm Burgers are delicious.
What would be your last supper?
It would have to be a Sunday roast around the kitchen table with my family — Beningbrough Aberdeen Angus of course.
Beningbrough Home Farm
Beningbrough, York, YO30 1DB