Karen Close, Retail & Deli Manager

What’s your role at Blacker Hall Farm and how long have you worked here?  I am the Retail and Deli Manager at Blacker Hall. I have worked here since November. I love my role as I get to champion Blacker Hall’s amazing handmade produce, whilst supporting other small artisan producers.

What inspired you to work at Blacker Hall Farm?
I have worked in the food industry for over 15 years and have consistently strived to advocate provenance and sustainability. Blacker Hall Farm represents everything I believe in; it’s a family business with the customer at its very heart.

Living in an increasingly flexitarian/reducitarian food world, what changes have been made to the range of food available at Blacker Hall Farm to reflect this change in people’s eating habits?
I am a fully fledged vegetarian and have been for over 30 years. I have a great deal of experience in vegan diets too, so it’s been great to be able to share my knowledge to bring a whole new element to Blacker Hall Farm. I have introduced new and exciting products including fantastic vegan sauces, healthy ready meals, pies and meat replacements. I’ve also started to stock products flexitarians are familiar with – lentils, pulses and grains. I am working closely with our Butchers to develop ready to cook dishes with reduced proportions of meat.

What’s your feel for what foods are currently trending and what may be on their way down?
Alongside a big rise in vegan food, fermented items such as miso and sauerkraut are getting really popular. There’s a big focus on reducing refined sugar, instead replacing it with natural sugars and flavourful freeze dried berries. People are looking for optimum health, cooking from scratch with fresh, nutrient dense ingredients, whilst recognising the benefits of lighter, fresher meals packed with whole grains, mineral rich vegetables, protein and omega-3 rich ingredients like fresh seafood and shellfish.

Foods on their way down…processed, mass produced, fatty, sugar dense items….hooray for that.

What’s your favourite product that we sell? You can have two! One from our homemade range and one from our bought-in selection.
Gosh this is hard…there’s so much to choose from! My family utterly adore our handmade meatballs…as do many of our customers. They are just so easy. Pop them in the oven and serve them over spaghetti with a big chunk of our home made garlic bread.
I have to say I’m personally addicted to our Soulful One Pots-organic vegan, gluten free meals, with no nasties. My absolute favourite is the mushroom stroganoff, but they’re all yummy. Super filling, low fat and tasty.

As a vegetarian feeding a family of meat eaters, how do you choose the meat and fish that you buy?
I have to know the meat and fish my family is eating comes from farmers who care about their animals and treat them with complete respect. I have always said I’ll never stop the world from eating meat, but I can educate people on where to buy their meat from.  Intensive farming to me, represents a complete lack of compassion. Knowing the animals lived a happy, healthy life makes all the difference.

Given the choice, what would your husband and daughter go for as their favourite Blacker Hall product?
Well, my daughter would happily chomp her way through a huge rare steak, served with our wedges and Diane sauce. My husband would be over the moon with a big bowl of calamari and Yorkshire mayo….

What’s your food heaven?
Sitting in Blacker Hall Farm when everyone has gone home, munching my way through the handmade original chocolate cakes….washed down with a big glass of Blacker Hall Gin 😉

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