What: Fresh vegetables, fruit and other locally made larder staples
Where: Newton St Loe, Bath, BA2 9BT
When: Mon-Sat 8.30am-5pm; Sun 9am-4pm
Celia and Hugh Gay founded Newton Farm Foods in an 18th-century barn on their tenanted Newton St Loe farm back in 2006. It was the product of a period of turning tides for farmers, the couple realising that the survival of their business would depend on it becoming more diversified.
The shop as we know it today developed gradually, beginning with Hugh selling their beef, door to door, in 2000 before going on to develop an on-site butchery. Once established, the farm shop quickly took off, and seeing the demand for a café, the pair built one in the disused milking parlour. Hugh and Celia’s son Josh returned to the farm in 2015 after studying agriculture at university, and grew the livestock to include sheep and pigs alongside the herd of cattle.
(These days, the farmyard itself has relocated nearby, but you can still see some happy piglets bounding about in paddocks here.)
“We’re very proud of all our livestock,” says Celia. “But in particular our herd of pedigree South Devon cattle – a large native breed, known for its distinctive ginger colour and great mothering.”
Specialising in grass-fed, free-range meat, Celia tells us that the animals here are outside, grazing, whenever the weather allows. It’s this meat that’s sold in the onsite butchery and served in the café, keeping food miles down and traceability and transparency high. Newton’s farming methods don’t just benefit the animals and the end product, though – there are environmental advantages too. This is perhaps a lesser-discussed perk of traditional, ethical livestock farming.
“Our grazing animals have a huge part to play in the conservation of the historic Newton Park, contributing to the biodiversity of this grassland, along with the grass being a valuable carbon sink,” explains Celia. At the butcher’s counter, you’ll find all kinds of cuts of meat and homemade bangers and burgers – all from the farm’s animals. Takeaway meals, made by Newton’s chefs for cooking at home, were recently launched too.
It’s not all about the meat, though; crops like barley, wheat and linseed are all produced on the farm, and there’s a colourful array of local fruit and veg at the shop, as well as grocery items like bread, dairy and coffee. You’ll even find a selection of homeware, like Cabanaz’s retro-look crockery.
For anything that can’t be produced onsite, the team choose third party makers with a very particular set of standards. New to the shelves are Nutcessity’s organic and vegan nut and seed spreads, and Crumbs Award-winning lavosh flatbread from Step and Stone, for instance.
While diversifying has boosted the farm, it’s still a tough industry, notes business development manager Roz Golding.
“We are experiencing stiff competition from key supermarkets, who have the space and purchasing power to buy in large quantities and are therefore able to offer highly reduced prices.
“We feel that our main challenge is to drive home the message that products such as meat are not like-for-like. It’s questionable whether supermarkets are sufficiently transparent in their claims of origin and traceability. It’s also doubtful that some meats sold in supermarkets provide the depth of flavour and tenderness that comes with products that have been slowly grown and gently matured.”
And, well, you don’t get to admire happy piglets chomping on veg scraps down your local supermarket aisle, do you?