From humble beginnings to bustling farm shop

Published on December 9, 2014

By Harker’s Farm Shop

Left: The Harker’s Farm Shop team – Rupert and Tracy are in the middle

Christmas starts early at Harker’s Farm Shop as preparations begin to make sure the shelves remain fully stocked throughout with our own farm-reared beef, lamb, turkey, goose and chicken.

With an additional 800 turkeys and the geese reared specifically for the Christmas market, the rush in the run-up to the big day is relentless. We are one of the few remaining turkey farmers in the area and still have a licence to slaughter poultry on the farm, ensuring the whole process from hatching to rearing creates no food miles.

The Christmas trees have also arrived – a relatively new enterprise for us brought about by the neighbouring farmer ceasing to grow and sell their own.

Our comprehensive range of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and cakes, jams and condiments and of course our hallmark meat is a far cry from our shop’s humble beginnings.

“My father Tom is now 88 but he started the business with a door-to-door chicken and egg delivery. In those days, he would collect the old laying hens to sell for the table, but people are much fussier now,” says Rupert Harker [shop owner and farmer].

Rupert’s wife Tracy recalls how the farm has changed since she moved there over 25 years ago: “In those days it was just a butchery but we have progressed slowly to where we are now. In addition to the food, we have built a ‘toddler tractor park’ and last year we constructed the aviary. The kids can feed the animals as they wander around the paddock.”

Although the farm shop is now the visible focus, the working farm is still very much at the heart of what we do.

Rupert says: “We have a herd of 120 cattle – Hereford cross & Aberdeen Angus. My father still goes to market every week and buys calves and store calves that we finish off on the farm before putting them through the shop. We are almost self-sufficient in beef and lamb.”

Rupert is also delighted that his 18-year-old son Samuel is taking a keen interest in the farm: “Samuel half owns a mixed flock of Suffolk and Dorset ewes, which are put to a Charolais tup; this gives us a smallish lamb which is ideal for the shop. We lamb early in January and February so we have spring lamb which is popular with our restaurant customers.”

The pressure to grow is mounting as the business goes from strength to strength but Tracy and Rupert agree that any decision to expand further would need to be taken very carefully.

“People seem to like what we do. We’ve got regular customers who have been coming to us for 30 years; we know them all by name and the butchers in the shop know exactly what they like. If we were to get too big, we would run the risk of losing this connection with our customers,” says Tracy.

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Harker’s Farm Shop is part of the Great Food Club network 

Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire with his wife, two kids and dog. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.