Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Farm shop opened at estate in memory of founder

Farm shop opened at estate in memory of founder

A FARM in Whitchurch has opened a self-service shop in memory of a family member and co-founder.

Lin’s Veg Shed, which is based at the Tolhurst Organic Partnership, off Hardwick Road, sells seasonal produce grown on the estate.

It will also offer drinks, salads, cakes and soups to passing walkers and cyclists over the summer.

The business is named after Lin Tolhurst, who came up with the idea last summer and who jointly ran the community interest company on the Hardwick estate with her business partner Iain Tolhurst, their daughter Rose and Mr Tolhurst’s wife Tamara.

The farm had been running a similar venture from a makeshift barn since 2013 but she wanted to set up something more permanent so they launched a crowdfunding campaign in October which raised £8,450 in less than two months. She died suddenly in November, shortly after the appeal hit its target, so the family decided to carry on and make her dream a reality.

Mr Tolhurst, a builder, built the timber-framed shop and it started trading in February.

It is situated near the gates of the Hardwick estate, where the farm is based, and is managed by Rose’s sister Eugena. Customers pay by putting banknotes in an honesty box or leaving small change in a dish for others who need it.

It has a lighting system powered entirely by solar panels on the roof, allowing people to shop in the evenings.

The farm, which grows more than 100 varieties of vegetable organically and with no animal produce such as manure, replenishes the shop after harvesting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Ms Tolhurst, who lives on site, visits several times a day. At the moment, a small number of its products come from other organic farms as the shop is experiencing the “hungry gap”, a period in which the previous year’s crops are running out and others are yet to replenish it.

However, everything will come from the farm as more crops come through. The current selection includes various squashes from the estate and root vegetables such as swede. Strawberries and spring greens are expected soon.

Ms Tolhurst said: “It has been well supported by the community and we’re glad that we’ve got the facilities for a café as a lot of cyclists and walkers are potential customers but they don’t necessarily want to ride off with a big bag of potatoes.

“People are so glad that we’ve carried this on and the honesty box is working well —  we’ve never had a problem with it and a lot of people enjoy being able to browse without someone watching them because it feels less pressured.

“We had wanted a more permanent structure but organic farming isn’t a big business, which is why we started the crowdfunding campaign, and we’d already put the foundations in place when my mum died.

“It was such a shock but we channelled all our efforts into this and it has completely changed how we live as well as helping with the grieving journey.

“We’re pleased to be carrying on her dream and educating people about where food comes from and the benefits of eating seasonally.

“Supermarket culture has made everything so instant and immediate but this makes people think about what they’re buying and actually enjoy shopping rather than feeling rushed.”

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