How the owners of Minskip Farm Shop in North Yorkshire expanded to open new egg restaurant Yolk

Finding out how their farm business worked when taking it on nearly five years ago was the first step to a North Yorkshire couple achieving success and recently brought about yet another award.

Ben and Emma Mosey run Minskip Farm Shop

Ben and Emma Mosey’s Yolk Farm and Minskip Farm Shop near Boroughbridge is now home to 1,500 laying hens, in the most people-friendly poultry accommodation in the county; a small herd of alpacas, three Kunekune pigs, pygmy goats; the updated and extended farm shop and their unique restaurant.

Ben, a farmer’s son from near Gilling who had become an exploration geologist, and Emma, a novelist, had returned from their time in Australia and Indonesia, and after a short while back on Ben’s family’s farm acquired the 16-acre farm and Minskip Farm Shop.

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Ben said they had one primary objective in their first year.

Emma inside Yolk, their new restaurant venture

“Our first year was let’s exist in the business and get to know it. What was really important is who walks through the door. It is all about understanding where money is coming from. A set of accounts is one story. How it happens is another.

“The first major thing we did was to put in electronic point of sale that recorded every single itemised sale, how much customers were spending, who was coming in and when.

“We found we were missing out on a younger demographic."

Emma said their respective skills provide the right blend when thinking and acting.

Ben with their alpacas

“Ben is the strategic thinker. He takes the data and analyses. I’m better with people and getting on with the ideas. Ben will say he needs more data before making a decision. I’m like, I don’t care about the data. I’m the energy. I just do things straight away. I come in and bulldoze. It’s a good balance and why partnerships work.”

Everything has been analysed and changed since their arrival, including the farm operation. Ben said the changes made have impacted in a very positive way in the business, the farmed environment and customer relationships in the shop and in Yolk.

“We had 6,000 laying hens but now have 1,500. We no longer sell eggs to supermarkets. Everything now comes through the shop and restaurant. We sell the eggs to ourselves. The prices from supermarkets meant we could not afford to produce for them any longer.

“We have cut out a middleman in the process and keeping less hens we are able to provide a higher level of welfare with more space for them both inside and outside.

“I can guarantee there won’t be many people who have been on a commercial hen farm before, and all of the usual questions have led us the way we have gone.

“We get a lot of vegetarians in the restaurant who will eat eggs and some vegans will too. Any day of the year I’m happy to show anyone around our hens in the sheds and in their paddock and tell them this is our welfare standard and how we do the eggs and how we look after the hens. I’m always ready to have those conversations."

Ben and Emma go one step further too, ensuring their hens can live a happy life after their main egg laying days. Ben said it came about when customers asked what happened to them.

“It made Emma and I question ourselves. We now go through a charity called Fresh Start for Hens and The British Hen Welfare Trust who come to the farm at the appropriate time and take them to another site where people collect them.”

Minskip Farm Shop had been successful for the previous owners but Emma and Ben built upon that with their analyses and improvements. Yolk opened its restaurant doors for the first time during the pandemic.

Emma said it has been a massive learning curve but their unique approach, with a menu packed with chicken and egg dishes has proved amazingly popular.

“We opened in July last year. An egg restaurant, we thought, was creating something completely new, unique. It was something totally new to the market. We had been convinced that just opening a restaurant was not enough, that we needed that something different and this has proved it.

“Some of our idea came from where we had lived in Australia. When you go down to a place like Margaret River they treat food differently. It’s like 100 kilometres of food tourism where brunch is a really big thing. It wasn’t that way here when we first came back but it is becoming more that way and Yolk fits right in there.

“But the big thing for me is the team we have here. Our team is really important to me. Due to Covid the team has been through so much together. They smile, not because they have been told to but because we try to motivate the right way. We use work coaches, and we are keen to skill people up to make them as strong both in and out of the work environment.”