Blacker Hall Farm came into the Garthwaite family in 1901. They were originally tenant farmers and subsequently the land owners. According to ‘The History of Blacker Hall’ by Jean Garthwaite, the attraction was partly due to the family brewery, The Oak Brewery, Calder Grove. The 17th century maltkiln, forming part of the farmstead, was a jewel in the crown to brewer John Garthwaite and his wife Hannah-Maria, a farmer’s daughter. It would appear that she was keen to capitalise on her farming roots with the production of their own barley for the family brewery.
Edward’s father John, and his mother Anne, embarked on a similar journey together. With farming deep in their blood and a drive to do the very best for their four children, they followed John’s ambition of selling their own meat directly to the public. In 1999, the family set out to renovate the cow barn at Blacker Hall. They felt it was the right time to make a start with second daughter Helen’s degree in Food Science and both Edward and Mary studying Agricultural Business Management at university.
And so what began originally as a farming enterprise to support the family brewery evolved into a gastronomic destination with a strong focus on provenance.
The majority of our beef and pork comes from our own farm, where our herd of cattle includes well bred Angus, Hereford, Simmental, Belgian Blue and Limousin. Edward’s sister, Mary, and her husband Matthew take care of 400 acres of farm land, growing wheat, barley, maize and a range of vegetables (which you can pick up in our Greengrocery). We also work with other great local farmers to ensure a consistent quality of locally reared meat for The Farm Shop and Barn Café.
People often ask us, “Where’s the farm?”. Well, just look around you! The Farm Shop is surrounded by rural land which we use as pasture to grow our feed crops and vegetables. Our animals are free to graze in the nearby fields between here and junction 39 of the M1, but we ensure that they are fed on a mixture of nutritious home-grown cereals and forage crops to guarantee a unique flavour. We truly believe that happy animals give the best quality of meat.
As a family of farmers we take a hands-on and traditional approach to everything we do to achieve the best quality possible. Our beef roasts and steaks are matured on the bone for a minimum of 21 days, our award-winning hams and bacon are dry-cured here by us, and our bread is freshly baked each morning. Whilst it’s impossible for us to compete with local supermarkets on price, there’s no contest when it comes to taste and provenance.
Anne Garthwaite : “As John and I both grew up with farming we were used to eating our own meat. We knew it was totally unadulterated and this is what we fed to our children. Bread was baked from scratch, treats were from the family recipe books and milk came from the cow outside. Somehow we wanted others to experience that same feeling, as we really believed it was better and the most natural way of doing things.
When we moved to Broad Cut Farm, just down the road from Blacker Hall, after we were married we had one sow, a handful of calves and grew quite a few vegetables. Now along with our youngest daughter Mary and her husband, Matthew, we supply all the pork for The Farm Shop, most of the beef and even some vegetables.”