• Sponsored by Asda
  • WINNER: Steve and Heather Tucker, White Row Country Foods, Somerset

Steve and Heather Tucker have a passion for home-grown food, and they want to share it with others. It is this, along with their underlying love of the family farm and desire to secure its future that has made White Row Country Foods the success it is today.

The farm shop has been transformed since starting life almost a decade ago as a pig building converted on a shoe-string budget. It now attracts about 3000 people a week, with an average spend of £16-17 a basket. Total business turnover last year was more than £1.8m and is predicted to increase to £2.18m in 2009 after a further extension to the shop. It’s a far cry from the struggling pig enterprise of the 1990s.

The pair believe they were “lucky” to have the busy A36 running past the farm’s front gate, but it is their enthusiasm and business prowess that have really shaped this success story. White Row’s achievements – sales are up more than 20% this year – come despite a backdrop of economic recession and reduced consumer spending; factors that have hit many retailers, big and small.

“Our vision for the future is to keep producing good quality, seasonal home-grown food, with the emphasis on educating our customers and their children about the importance of food and where it comes from,” says Steve.

The shop incorporates a butchery, fish counter, delicatessen, café and garden shop, employing 45 local staff. Sow numbers have been reduced from 200 to 40-45 head, just enough to meet the shop’s requirements and provide a focal point for visitors. In addition, a range of salad crops, potatoes, carrots and brassicas are grown alongside feed wheat and oilseed rape. “Whatever the supermarkets do, they’ll never be able to offer the freshness and provenance we can,” Steve says. “We source what we can from our own farm first, then look to local producers, then go further afield.”

That passion for fresh, local food is something Steve and Heather are keen to pass on to younger generations. White Row supplies vegetables to 6-10 local schools and they both want to do more to educate children about food. “I’d like to open the farm up more to the public to show them what goes on, plus we’d also like to set up a commercial kitchen and cookery school where people can come and learn how to best use local produce,” Steve says.

Their professional approach, enthusiasm for fresh, quality produce and passion for farming is an inspiration and makes them true ambassadors for local food and deserved winners of this year’s Local Food Farmer award.

Tuckers-main

FARM FACTS

  • 90ha (220 acres) arable crops, vegetables and grass
  • 40-45 Large White pigs crossed with Duroc and Landrace breeds
  • Farm shop opened in 2000
  • 45 local full and part-time staff employed

WHAT MAKES THEM A WINNER?

  • Built a strong business out of the struggling pig enterprise
  • Clear passion for home-grown and local food
  • Strong desire to educate future generations about the food they eat

SPONSOR’S VIEW

  • The Local Farmer of the Year is a great accolade and Steve and Heather Tucker are worthy winners. Their passion for growing fresh produce and their plans to educate local children can never be underestimated. Pearce Hughes, Asda

INDEPENDENT JUDGE

  • Steve and Heather have a clear ambition to grow as much as possible of what they sell. They have an excellent understanding of the business. It’s a great, professional shop, but still in keeping with what a farm shop should be. Lee Woodger