As locations for a farm shop go, it doesn’t get much better than Beningbrough Hall.
The august estate, situated on National Trust land, attracts some 100,000 visitors a year and affords some spectacular vistas.
However, the success of Home Farm Shop, run by Alistair and Lucy Jackson, is far from attributable to their location on the trust’s land, but rather on their passion and expertise in the farming industry. The farm shop itself is one of the more striking and homely enterprises I have come across in Yorkshire and its shelves are home to some of the best produce the region has to offer.
However, the main attraction for customers is the beef the Jacksons sell, all of which is reared on Home Farm itself.
The couple knew what they were selling was good, having established a keen following for their Aberdeen Angus cuts well before they took the decision to open.
However, the decline of the dairy industry proved to be the catalyst that inspired the couple to take a leap of faith in the farm’s quality and start selling on a grander scale.
“We started off small,” said Mrs Jackson. “We were selling beef for a few years – but it was just something at the end of the lane, nothing like this.
“So we already had a following, the beef was what led to us opening the shop.”
The couple exited dairy farming around 2006 just as prices began to decline. They got rid of their entire herd of around 400 cows and at the time just ran a small herd of beef cattle.
Mrs Jackson remembers the moment they decided to give it a go vividly.
“We had to do something to generate income. The farm shop had always been something we had had as an idea. It took us some time to build the herd up.
“We just saw it as a good opportunity.”
Visitors to Home Farm Shop will doubtless be surprised to know that the rustic yet modern farm shop building was in fact formerly cart sheds, later used as garages.
In the past they have been used for storing animals and tractors but now they are home to some of the best breads, cakes and pies in the region.
However, the beef remains very much the main attraction.
This year the North Yorkshire farm was one of just 22 producers from across England and Wales to be awarded a Fine Farm Produce Award from the National Trust for their Aberdeen Angus beef.
The accolade means that the couple can now display the Fine Farm Produce Award logo on their products.
Mr Jackson, who built up the herd and today looks after them, is full of praise for the Aberdeen Angus breed and the beef they produce.
“They are revered for great taste of the meat. They’re conversion rate of grass to meat is brilliant.
“Also growing it from grass you get great marbling that gives it the flavour. “
Any of the meat that they do not sell through the shop goes into supermarket chain Booths through the ‘Beef to Booths’ scheme.
The decision to go into retailing did not come easily and Mrs Jackson candidly recalls the hard work that went into the operation. The family are the second generation in a third generation farming tenancy agreement. It is this security that gave the family the confidence they needed to make their move and get the shop open.
Mrs Jackson said: “The lifestyle change has been huge.
“We have two young children and have now been going for three and half years. We have had a good journey down the line and now have a great relationship with our suppliers and producers.
“We have wonderful loyal customers from the local area.
“We have had people coming in from all overt he country who have come to visit the hall, and these people have been coming back.
“And, of course, we have the added attraction of Beningbrough Hall.”
Today the shop provides employment for 10 people, a number which has grown over the years.
All of the baking is done on-site while the pies and pasties are put together at Wixleys and then baked at the shop to make them as fresh as possible for customers.
In all, the shop now has 50 different suppliers.
Building up the suppliers has been a gradual process. As Mrs Jackson said: “I can’t afford to spend hundreds of pounds on loads of packets of biscuits, we’re not that kind of shop.
“The relationships that we have suit both our houses. I feel like I am in a good routine now.”
Mr and Mrs Jackson in particular are full of praise for Hartley’s butcher in nearby Tholthorpe which carries out butchery on their behalf on a day-by-day basis.
“We have used them for donkey’s years,” said Mr Jackson. “They are genuinely helpful, and have been so right from the word go.”
The land on which Home Farm is based came under the control of the National Trust in 1957 when Lady Chesterfield died and left the land to the charity.
Mr Jackson’s father was the first tenant on the farm, taking on the site in 1959 having moved his family from Burnley. Mr Jackson would later take on the running.
Given the ever-changing nature of farming, the Jacksons can be proud to have such a thriving enterprise on the farm.
As Mrs Jackson said: “We finally feel like we are established, it has been a very nice three years.”
And the farm may well already have its future in good hands with the couple’s young children already expressing an interest.
Talking of his young son, Mr Jackson said: “He’s become a farmer this year, he loves it outside.”
Another proud chapter in the family’s history beckons.