Peter & Hilary Cochran
Knowes Farm, East Lothian
Sponsored by Asda
Fresh fare from field and farmhouse is the aim of the farm shop business at Knowes – and that maxim has been held for 30 years.
Peter and Hilary Cochran originally sold eggs from the hens’ houses in the late 1960s on their farm in Dunbar.
But they needed a bigger outlet to sell the range of goods produced on farm and therefore opened the farm shop in 1979. The shop is a hub of activity and its central position is indicative of its importance in the whole farming operation.
About 1000 customers visit Knowes every week and on average they each spend about £10 a visit.
“Our relationship with customers is, by definition, highly personal,” says Hilary. “They cherish that relationship – they become wound up with what we do.”
Knowes is a tenanted farm which extends to 160ha, including 25ha for growing potatoes.
The farm employs 20 local people, including a father and son team who live on site and are responsible for running the arable operation.
The Cochrans work to integrate arable farming by using the best of modern science to harness traditional land husbandry and good crop rotation.
They farm holistically, but not organically, to cherish the natural fertility of the soil.
In the vegetable and herb garden plots, foods are grown directly in soil without polythene. Routine spraying and artificial fertiliser are avoided, just “sun and dung”.
Knowes’ award-winning eggs are produced from indoor and outdoor hens, reared from a day old and fed meal which is milled on farm using Knowes’ wheat and without using antibiotics.
One-third of the sales are homegrown foods packaged with the “Knowes Own” seal of approval. Knowes produces 13 different potato varieties, an entire spectrum of tastes and textures, freshly dug from June until October.
Almost 900 dozen eggs are sold weekly directly from the farm to the end user and 120t of potatoes are sold every year in the shop.
Homemade soups, pates, puddings, preserves and sauces are made in the farmhouse using Knowes’ fresh produce.
Knowes also sells to a number of local shops, cafes and restaurants and has about 150 different food suppliers with over 50 from within a 30-mile radius. Turnover has trebled since 2000.
They provide the farm shop with a unique range of quality goods – a shop window for local firms to sell their produce.
• 160ha arable tenancy, producing crops, eggs, potatoes and vegetables
• 900 dozen eggs sold weekly
• Farm shop opened in 1979
WHY THEY WON
• Integrated business, growing feed for chickens and hens
• Sense of community attached to farm shop
• Demonstrate passion for running business
Peter and Hilary grow as much food as possible to sell in their farm shop. It sets an example of how every farm shop should be run
Peter and Hilary Cochran demonstrate a strong commitment to producing local food. The farm shop is central to their business and much of its produce comes from the farm. They are very worthy winners.
• Jan McCourt
• Northfield Farm, Leicestershire
Jan’s journey from banking to farming hasn’t been easy, but he has won, with the success of his rare breeds business, which supplies his own farm shop, London markets as well as festivals and top restaurants
• Andrew Davies
• Woburn Country Foods, Bedfordshire
Andrew has created an enviable brand; he’s scaled up his pig farming business by creating a producer group of 14 regional farmers and supplies more than 100 catering outlets