AWARD-winning Orleton Farm Shop is coping with its busiest time of year – Turkey Time.
With 600 turkeys to pluck, dress and retail, the relaxation of Christmas Day seems a long-way off and all the family gather to help out.
The Lewis family have farmed at Priors Halton in Ludlow, south Shropshire for two generations and have always been involved with Christmas poultry. The introduction of their farm shop 13 years ago changed the operation as retail demand and workload increased substantially.
George, who manages Orleton Farm shop, and his son Jonathan, who manages the home farm, Priors Halton, work hard to supply top quality produce and have done so for over 13 years, building an established, highly reputable brand for the farm shop.
The farm recently gained its organic status and is certified through the Soil Association.
The shop specialises in organic Aberdeen Angus beef and Suffolk cross lamb which are supplied throughout the year as well as a large variety of other organic and conventional produce.
Free-range bronze turkeys, geese and ducks are reared especially for the festive season, the demand for which has grown tremendously over the last five years.
The value of family help is paramount to the success of Orleton Farm Shop. Daughters Rosemary (25) and Charlotte (23) have flown the family nest but return to the roost at Christmas to offer support. Rosemary is assistant farm shop manager at the Royal Windsor farm shop and Charlotte works as press officer and researcher for property firm Strutt & Parker but they still retain a keen interest in the family business – something for which George is very grateful. They help all year around covering labour shortages and Rosemary has a huge input directing the strategy of the business.
“Their support and interest is invaluable,” says George of his daughters. “If they didn”t return home at Christmas I would have to employ somebody else to deal with the festive workload – which would make a huge difference to the bottom line.”
Son Jonathan adds: “It is brilliant to be able to rely on Rosemary and Charlotte returning as they know the routine which is great as you don’t have the inconvenience of having to train someone each year.
“It is seriously hard work, but it is great to have so much life around the farm and we have fun getting everything done. However I can’t deny that man-management skills become a lot harder – controlling two sisters is not for the faint-hearted!”
As farm diversification has increased locally and regionally, competition has grown. The Lewis family has strived to keep improving their standards and the quality of produce while maintaining their original aim of “tradition counts”.
It is a true family business which has grown according to consumer demand, like the addition of a kitchen which allows the shop to produce homemade pies and cakes whilst fully complying with the highest health and safety requirements.
“The business has grown substantially over the last five years,” says George, “and I hope it will continue to do so – the local food phenomenon has certainly helped our produce become recognised on a wider scale.
“Rosemary has also played a vital part as she injected huge enthusiasm and vision into the business – along with most of her free time! Christmas is very hard work but this is a part of the business that we want to expand in the future and with help from the family this is achievable.”
You would think the Lewis family has had enough of Christmas fare by the time they sit down on Christmas Day. However, they all enjoy nothing more than a turkey feast prepared by mother, Joan.