FEATURE: Farm that sells 30,000 punnets of summer!
Most people will have at some point eaten strawberries from Farndon Fields Farm. With the sun shining, the Mail's Alex Dawson and Andy Carpenter went along to the family-run business to find out more.
In a polytunnel 100 metres long, some of the first strawberries of the year are being picked for a Market Harborough farm shop.
They’ll pick around 30,000 punnets of strawberries this year at Farndon Fields Farm.
“And we don’t sell to anyone else” says Nicola Stokes, from the family that runs the business.
“The only place you can get our locally grown strawberries is in our shop.”
Farndon Fields Farm Shop will sell the strawberries at an average of £2.50 for a 500g punnet (although they’re a bit more now, because it’s early season).
That’s £75,000 worth of fruit - all grown in the fields near Market Harborough.
Farndon Fields Farm Shop was started in 1985 by Nicola’s parents Kevin and Milly in the garage of their house on Farndon Road.
Today it’s a 550 acre farm in three chunks across south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, with a shop that’s an award-winning rural market of local produce.
The shop sells everything from bread and cakes to meat and beer - all locally sourced.
“It’s about growing locally, selling locally and keeping the pound local” says Nicola. “There’s a community of local farms and businesses that benefit - we support them and they support us.”
There’s also a cafe, a gift shop and a garden centre.
The Farndon Fields company employs 65-70 people.
But strawberries - the symbol of an English summer - remain one of the farm’s best sellers.
The strawberry season started in late May in Market Harborough and can last - weather permitting - into mid September.
The strawberries are picked every morning from the polytunnels - which protect the fruit from the rain.
They’re grown on tables, rather than at ground level.
Lay all the tables end-to end and you’d have, by the Mail’s calculation, more than three kilometres of Harborough strawberries.
The variety that’s in the shop now is called Malling Centenary - an earlier variety, but less prolific.
Farndon Fields’ 24,000 Malling Centenary plants should produce around 9,000 punnets of strawberries.
You get more fruit per metre from the two varieties that ripen from early July - Sweet Eve and Prize.
The farm has 24,000 plants of these two varieties, which will produce around 21,000 punnets.
“We plant in staggers, so we don’t get too much fruit at once” said Nicola.
“But if there’s a glut, we can always make jam...”
The farm grows around 40 different varieties of potatoes, fruit and vegetables, most of it only metres away from the farm shop - despite the new housing estate that encroached onto land the family was renting.
And how do they compete against the town’s six major supermarket chains?
“We’re not over-priced” said Nicola. “And we’re a place to enjoy your shopping - a fantastic destination to enjoy local food for Market Harborough. A feast for the senses!”