A journey to the good life… the story of Vale Farm Eggs

I first met Karen McGuire-Garland and husband Matt at Creake Farmers’ Market in Norfolk. Their stand was surrounded by a crowd of people, all making appreciative noises. On closer inspection it was obvious to see why. Not only did they have trays of beautiful coloured, freshly laid farm eggs but there was also a cage filled with the cutest fluffy chicks.

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Just over a year ago Karen and Matt moved to rural Broadland Norfolk to follow their dream. They left a small property in Cambridgeshire with a postage stamp garden to a seven-acre smallholding called Vale Farm with the intention of turning a hen-keeping hobby into a business. The move hasn’t been smooth and they’ve had their fair share of problems, including one of the hen barns flooding, but this couple share a passion and determination that will get them through.

In 2007 Karen started off with four chickens in her back garden and soon after adopted some Silkies that needed re-homing. As with many chicken owners, she became fascinated by them and soon wanted to learn as much as she could about her pets. Before long she started hatching eggs and soon found friends and acquaintances asking her to hatch eggs for them, too. Last year Karen and Matt found themselves in the situation where they needed to move, which is when they hatched the plan to turn this hobby into a fully fledged business. They moved to Norfolk and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Taking on Vale Farm has enabled Karen and Matt to establish two interlinking businesses: Vale Farm Eggs and Belle Bantams UK. With their expertise and knowledge they are specialist breeders and suppliers of rare-breed bantams, hybrid hens, ducks and quail. Karen and Matt also sell a variety of fresh eggs at local farmers’ markets and supply local pubs and restaurants. They have a varied collection of hens including Legbars, Copper Marans, Cuckoo Marans, Light Sussex, Leghorns and Goldlines, giving a varied colour palette of fresh eggs to buy on market days.

This is the job many of us dream of. Karen says she often feels guilty as despite working hard it doesn’t feel as though she’s actually working. She’s doing what she loves most in the most amazing setting, surrounded by fields and fresh air. Karen enjoys her time spent on Vale Farm whilst Matt gets a buzz out of attending farmers’ markets. It takes him back to his childhood where he spent time working on his Grandad’s market stall.

With an established flock of hens and ducks at Vale Farm, the next focus is to breed more quails. The demand for quail eggs is high and customers are saying they want more so that’s exactly what they’re going to deliver.

Vale Farm Eggs can be found every month at Creake Farmers’ Market (first Saturday of every month).

As a Certified Registered Packing Station, they would welcome enquiries for hen, duck and quail eggs from restaurants, pubs and cafes: sales@valefarmeggs.co.uk

Vale Farm Eggs
Farm Barn
Reepham
Norfolk NR10 4QX
01603 516558 / 07490 352361

Louisa Sugden
The author:

Louisa lives in rural Norfolk and has a passion for eating and writing about local food.