“Sourcing from the best farms is only justified if followed by the best abattoir”

Q&A with Oliver Stubbins, manager of Welbeck Farm Shop in Nottinghamshire, which was shortlisted in the Great Food Club Awards 2017/18

Oliver Stubbins, manager at Welbeck Farm Shop

Tell us about the history of the Welbeck Farm Shop?
The idea of opening a farm shop here was sparked in the most wonderful fashion – over a couple of pints in the local between two good friends. Joe [Parente, farm shop director] was disappointed by the lack of availability of the kind of produce he would readily see in London, and Michael Boyle [first general manager] was looking for a new venture. This happened alongside the first production of Stichelton cheese here at Welbeck, and the love and affinity for great food has continued. We now have Welbeck Abbey Brewery, Welbeck Bakehouse, Stichelton, Welbeck Raw Milk, The School of Artisan Food, and a host of great independent producers resident on the estate, including Ottar Chocolate and Karkli Indian snacks. Of course, we offer this wonderful produce under the ‘Made in Welbeck’ banner in the farm shop.

Explain Welbeck Farm Shop to someone who has never visited…
It specialises in fresh foods. We pride ourselves on our multi-award winning butchery, with lamb, game and occasionally beef and pigs from the estate and neighbouring villages, as well as supply from some of the many great farmers and producers in our area. Our butchery, cheese and deli items are served over the counter in the traditional manner, with friendly knowledgeable staff at hand to offer cooking tips and meal ideas, and ensuring you leave with exactly what you want – whether it’s a certain thickness of steak or all of your items packed in the exact weights you need for your recipes (we aim to minimise packaging waste and food waste).

Who are your favourite local suppliers?
I am sure I would be in a lot of trouble if I didn’t say all the fabulous suppliers based here on the estate! Outside of the estate we are fans of Rhubarb Farm – a fantastic local social enterprise who grow a variety of traditional and heritage vegetables, as well as other great producers such as Hedgerow Preserves (Sheffield), Sauce Shop (Nottingham) and Liza Bakes (Chesterfield). We also have a wonderful relationship with our local abattoir, Elliots of Chesterfield – it is particularly important to know the animals are still treated with great respect and by knowledgeable, caring people, as sourcing from the best farms is only justified if followed by the best abattoir.

You recently won five Great Taste Awards for your butchery products. What’s your secret?
Now that would be telling! We have a great team here, and everyone is given time to get to know their products. Our bacon is cured by hand every week, and we have a specialist curing room, which is visible as you enter the shop. Taking out as much water as possible to give great quality product that maintains the taste of the pork is one of the most important steps.

What happens next?
We will continue to work with local and artisan producers to offer our customers an array of wonderful foods we think they will enjoy. The farm shop is continuing to grow year on year, meaning we are adding to our team, which brings new ideas and possibilities, so it’s a really exciting time. As the trend continues for people to look beyond the cheap mass market and eat less meat each week but look for better quality, we are in a great position to be able to offer our customers local meat from a source they can trust, prepared with care and expertise by our award-winning butchery team.

What is the best thing about your job?
I can’t lie, there are many great things about my job! Working with such a great team always ensures we make it through the most testing days. Our team are encouraged to be themselves and let their personality shine; this makes our service genuine, which is often commented on by our lovely customers, and means we get to know each other really well. Sampling an immense amount of great food is of course an extra perk!

Where do you like to eat out locally?
I have a teenage son so this can depend on who we are with and what we fancy. Being located between Sheffield and Nottingham we have a wide choice. Recent excursions have seen us visit Rafters in Sheffield (great for couples) and World Service in Nottingham. A little closer to home we like The Devonshire at Langwith.

Abby Brennan
The author:

Abby lives in Radcliffe on Trent with her family and several chickens. She is a former restaurant owner and now mentors food business start-ups, writes recipes, and blogs at The Fishwife's Kitchen.