I'm a big fan of farm shops. I'm lucky enough to live in an area well supplied with them. All are a drive away though. My nearest one is where I buy huge 20kg sacks of spuds for £4.50. I don't buy them at this time of the year though as the maincrop potatoes will be getting sprouty and soft. We eat less potatoes until the new ones come in. I expect they'll be late this year.
Generally speaking farm shops offer excellent value for money. I can buy 4 pints of unhomogenised milk with the cream on the top from a local dairy farmer for £1.25 a good 30p less than the standard supermarket stuff. They are also nice places to shop, as a regular, I'm always greeted with a cheery 'how are you today?'.
The farm shop I visit most often is a bit further, a ten minute drive. They are fruit growers specialising in apples and pears but also some soft fruit in the summer. Of course the English apples are going the way of the spuds at the moment. Yes, apples store for months but asking them to still be tasty by April is a bit much. I have to buy my children apples or they will be phoning Childline, so I get imported ones at this time of the year. As much as I can I try to buy local first, UK produced second and imported last. This policy landed me with a bit of a dilemma today. At the farm shop now are these.
These beautiful tomatoes are grown by a local grower. Now, to produce tomatoes in England in April an awful lot of heat must have been used. Buying Spanish tomatoes may well have less impact on the environment than buying these hothouse toms from down the road even allowing for the food miles. I don't ever buy imported fresh tomatoes, I always wait for the English ones to appear, but should I buy these unaturally early ones or should I wait until their proper season ? I'm weak, I bought them. they smell gorgeous. But why does buying one's food have to be fraught with such complicated decisions?
This was an easy decision. The first asparagus. Worcestershire is famous for its asparagus. It's always expensive, it's a luxury vegetable but if you only buy British then I think the expense is justified as the season is so short. I shall be buying two bunches a week until it has all gone.
As I entered the shop a bucket of gaudy parrot tulips caught my eye. I was sorely tempted, but remembered I had a lovely bunch of pale yellow jonquils on my mantelpiece, and at £2.85 a bunch the tulips would have been almost as much as the asparagus. However I spent less than I had anticipated and after I had put my fruit, veg and eggs in the car I returned to the bucket and selected two bunches. The lady in the shop took a look at them and said 'They're a bit droopy,you can have them for £2'. So my wanton extravagance turned out to be a bargain :o)
Aren't they just fab-u-lous? Hooray for farm shops!
To find your nearest farm shop or local producer have a look at this site Big Barn .