Mary Burgess, runs the family farm

Edward Garthwaite and his wife, Cheryl, are responsible for the running of The Farm Shop, whilst Mary (Edward’s sister) and her husband, Matthew, manage the family’s farm. This involves not only looking after the cattle and the pigs, but also managing the crops that are used to make the animal feeds, predominantly grass with a balance of wheat, barley, peas and maize. The family have started growing their own vegetables which has seen home-grown broccoli and potatoes for sale in The Farm Shop. We asked Mary a few questions about the running of the Garthwaite family farm.

Growing broccoli is a step away from cattle farming! How are you finding growing vegetables?

Very different to our usual work but both enjoyable and rewarding. Matthew was keen to try growing vegetables and we’ve been lucky with our initial experiments. The customers at The Farm Shop appreciate the fact that the broccoli and potatoes are home-grown. This year we are trying our first crop of corn on the cob and flower sprouts, so watch this space!

You shop at Blacker Hall Farm on a daily basis. What are your favourite homemade products?

I don’t know how the Burgess family would survive without The Farm Shop. It’s so important to me that our children eat healthy, homemade meals, but I don’t have the time or inclination to be in the kitchen all day! The homemade meals such as Steak Pie and Lasagne are therefore staples, and packed lunches consist of Blacker Hall’s freshly baked bread, cooked meats and scones – just like Mum used to make!

Many of the recipes still used in the Blacker Hall Bakery are from your Mum, based on traditional family favourites. Do you have a specific ‘good food’ memory from your childhood?

Mum was one on her own when it came to feeding us! Everything was homemade including porridge and muesli by the bucket full. There was always baking
in the tin – sponge cakes, flapjacks and biscuits. We were fed on good, tasty foods, including homemade bread. Even now, Mum still thrives on having all the family round for a good Sunday roast – Yorkshire puddings, lovely thick gravy and a massive joint of beef, all cooked with a Rayburn fuelled with wood!

Growing up on the Farm, was it a natural progression to take over the running of it?

Very much so. I was the youngest of four and whilst we were all involved in the farm, Edward and I showed the most interest. I graduated with a degree in Agriculture in 2000 shortly after The Farm Shop opened. At that time Dad’s health was deteriorating and there was an expansion project to increase supply for The Farm Shop so I found myself straight away working with Dad and Matthew (now my husband!). Growing up in the thick of farming action, you can’t help but have it in you!

What do you have coming up on the farm over the next few weeks and months?

It will be a hive of activity – most of the cereal crops are now sown, and all the cattle are outside, with the new calves doing well. A spell of good weather will see the grass being cut for silage, which is then used as animal feed during the winter months, so our tractors and trailers will be out on the roads!