Farm Of The Week: Real deal for meat lovers by the water

Lee Abbott
Lee Abbott
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A new farm shop near Fewston Reservoir is sticking true to butchery traditions. Chris Berry reports on the vision of its owners.

Enthusiasm can get you a long way in life and that’s exactly what husband and wife Lee and Beverley Abbott have in spades at Upper Cobby Syke Farm, Fewston where they moved from Guiseley just under two years ago.

Coupling quality with their natural fervour, hard work and listening to their customers is how they see their future.

In September last year they opened one of Yorkshire’s newest farm shops, just off the busy A59 near to Fewston Reservoir, with strong views on what they wanted to supply. After four months Lee believes their Fewston Farm Shop is cutting it in all the right ways.

“In my opinion a farm shop should be about selling meat prepared and raised on the farm. Vacuum-packed meat doesn’t give the right impression at all and to me that’s more of a shop on a farm rather than a proper farm shop. I think customers should be able to see you cutting up your own produce and setting up your cabinet with everything you have prepared yourself. That’s the real thing.

“Up here it’s a completely different clientele to townspeople who are not often aware of how important it is to hang meat for a certain length of time. This is very much a farming community area and they know what they’re talking about. If I put out a piece of meat that has been hung for 28 days, as mine is, people from towns would turn their nose up at it. They’d say ‘I’m not having that, it’s black.’ The customers around here understand how meat should be prepared.

“It’s all about producing and offering quality meat that tastes just right and we are already selling a side of beef a week, two or three lambs and a side of pork.

“Our fellow farmers have been very helpful and friendly and have offered lambs if we need them.”

Beverley and Lee’s intention is to source wholly their farm-grown meat. They run a small herd of pedigree Shorthorn cattle and crossbred Herefords and a flock of 25 Texel and Charollais Cross breeding ewes that are set to lamb in March. Last year they had 100 sheep but a lack of farm shed space led to Beverley’s decision to go for reduced numbers this year.

“I didn’t enjoy lambing at all last year and the weather didn’t help either, but it was our first year at Fewston and we just didn’t have the space for all of them.”

Their farming operation runs to 70 acres in Guiseley, where Beverley’s mum and dad, David and Jennifer Sandham, farmed before David passed away; and nine acres at Fewston. Beverley has always worked on the farm whether for her parents or now together with Lee.

“We had three-quarter crossbred Limousin suckler cows and I looked after them. Dad was a regular at Wharfedale Livestock Market and was well-known in the West Riding for both his cattle and his scrap metal business that he ran with his brother and where Lee also worked for many years.

“When Lee and I set up on our own after my dad passed away we wanted different cattle and we settled on the two breeds we have now because they are so much quieter and easier to handle than the Limousins. We bought our pedigrees out of Skipton at the Shorthorn Society sale and locally from top breeder Peter Ashby. Across the two breeds we now have 16 breeding cows, 14 two-year-olds ready to come into the shop soon, nine bullocks and six heifers. We’ve also recently become members of the Shorthorn Society.”

Although they originally took up with Herefords and Shorthorns for their docility, Lee tells of their preference for native breeds through the farm shop.

“We’ll only kill native breeds through the shop. There won’t be any continentals. That’s because I just think they are far better eaters and are easier to cut. The native breeds are great grass converters and they are definitely on their way back.”

The emphasis the couple place on cuts and butchery skills are all part of their background. Lee completed his apprenticeship with Dewhurst’s before working for David Brown in his butcher’s shop in Otley and in a farm shop run by Beverley’s brother and cousin. Both Beverley and Lee worked in butchering when leaving school.

“David is now our farm neighbour. He has the next farm down from us here at Fewston and he helps me with the cutting.

“We’ve found that people will travel a decent distance for quality and once they have found you they will come back week after week. If you sell rubbish you will sell once and they will never come back.

“We opened in September and some thought we had opened at the wrong time of year as we had just missed the main tourist season. We were happy enough because it has given us time to settle into a routine. We open the farm shop from 10am to 4pm Wednesdays to Sundays. This allows us to work on the farm before the shop opens and to come back to it afterwards. We’re getting a good steady trade of locals for meat and those who have already found us from further afield, plus we get a mix of walkers, cyclists, bikers and older people looking for a pot of tea, sandwich and a slice of cake in our café.

“If the sun is shining you can see the difference it makes to our business and because we have such a large parking area it is easy for anyone to park up. We’re aiming at being self-sufficient with our meat produce and when the cattle go outside we will buy some store pigs to fatten up and finish. What we can’t provide for the shop ourselves will always be bought locally.

“We also want to start selling locally produced cheese and dairy products and the kind of things people want up here. They don’t want pop and crisps, they want proper jams, pickles and marmalades, free range eggs, butter, milk and freshly baked bread.

“Yesterday we had a lady come in from Bradford who had been recommended by someone else who had been here. He’d told her about our sausages. I’m just making Old English pork sausages and I can’t make them as fast as I’m selling them.”

Lee and Beverley were childhood sweethearts and have been together since they were 14. They have two sons – Jamie, 19, and Luke, 17 – but they are unlikely to be working with their parents as Jamie is employed in fabrications and Luke is keen to pursue an engineering career.

“We don’t employ any staff at the moment as we were more concerned about getting to know our customers. Local people like the fact they can just pop in and get something for their tea without travelling miles into town.”

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