Arthurs’ mother Lillian Hollins made cream cheese and Cheshire cheese back at the beginning of the 20th century and sold these at local markets. At the end of food restrictions and rationing in 1954 Fordhall Farm was free to produce and sell their dairy products once more, then Arthur and May started out on their ‘Dairy Adventure’ as told in the new Fordhall Farm book, ‘Fordhall Farm-The Yoghourt Years’. At first they started selling their products on local markets including nearby Market Drayton.
After an encouraging start with in the local markets which included Wolverhampton, by the late 1950s Arthur and May were running market stalls in a number of Midland and North Western towns, including Wellington, Shrewsbury, Chester, Birkenhead and Stockport. A wide range of products were also being supplied to food stores and delicatessens within a 70 mile radius, including Liverpool.
By the 1960s, thanks to successful stints at trade exhibitions including the 1962 London Olympia Food Fair, the northern Lewis’s chain and prestigious London stores such as Harrods and Selfridges were placing regular orders.
After years of a very successful dairy business, with growing competition from large dairy conglomerates such as Eden Vale, Arthur decided to move into the organic meat business. Arthur opened a farm shop in 1972 inside his attractive old farmhouse. In the first two months it took £500 which was a good start and he hoped to double this amount during the next two months. By 1975, as well as selling his own farm products he had on his counter specialities from other farms, cheeses, free range eggs, fresh vegetables free from chemical sprays, organically-grown stone-ground cereals and wholemeal bread.
His 150-acre organic farm, on which he had 40 different species of grass, had Jersey and Ayrshire cattle (which graze out at grass all the year round and which he was now crossing with Herefords and Charolais), sheep, pigs and poultry and his aim was to channel everything from the farm back into his shop.
At that time he was selling his meat in joints and chops- “because I want people to take them away and taste them for their flavour”- but eventually he planned to sell meat in bulk to stock deep freezes.
Arthur later teamed up with Ray Cornmell, a family butcher from Bolton, who sold Arthur’s organic meat on market stalls in places like Newcastle-under-Lyme and Altrincham. Ray also sold the organic meat in his shop in Bolton and at the farm shop. He was also a wholesale supplier to hotels and restaurants, and also took orders over the phone and sent the meat vacuum packed for next day delivery.
When Ben and Charlotte took over the tenancy in 2004 they recreated the Fordhall farm shop in a small building next to the farmhouse.
Later in 2005 when the ‘Fordhall Community Land Initiative’ was set up to save the farm, the shop was expanded and moved to the old dairy where it stayed until 2010.
Four years after the farm was saved from development work started to renovate the old dairy and in May 2011 the tearoom, butchery, farm shop, classrooms and offices were completed. The new farm shop sticks to Arthur’s philosophy of natural, locally produced food. The farm even has its own bakery which provides award winning pies, pasties and pastries for the farm shop and other outlets including Ben’s event catering.
Ben became tenant farmer in 2006, and he carried on his father’s philosophy of natural, organic farming and meat production. His Aberdeen Angus and Hereford herd, Gloucester Old Spot pigs and grass fed mix of Texel and Suffolk sheep supply the meat for the new farm shop as well as the ‘online shop,’ other outlets and his ‘event catering’.
To find out more about the ‘online shop’, click here.
To find out more about Ben’s ‘event catering’ click here.
Why not pay us a visit and explore England’s first community owned farm. We have the farm shop, tearooms, community garden and farm trails where you can explore the Shropshire countryside at its best.