Farmers Weekly Local Food Farmer of the Year 2014: Tom Bowles

Tom Bowles
Hartley Farm Shop and Café, Wiltshire

As soon as you meet Tom Bowles, you somehow know he is going to be impressive. You would be hard pushed to find such natural leadership, creativity and business sense all wrapped up in one person. But 28-year-old Tom is just that.

With an intelligent management style and excitement about all things food, Tom has led the rebirth of his family’s 60ha pig and arable farm near Bradford-on-Avon.

“This year’s winner has shown hugely impressive leadership, vision and passion to create an inspiring local food destination.”
Sally Jackson, chairman of Farma, joint owner of The Pink Pig farm shop, restaurant and farm park, and independent judge

Today, Hartley Farm is a multi-award winning local food destination with food, farming and community at its heart and a £1m-plus turnover.

Under Tom’s management, the business grew 25% last year, hitting a £1m turnover and 6% profit.

Remarkably, Tom had no previous business experience when he joined the family farm after university. Yet his understanding about how to create a “destination” and “experience” could give anyone a run for their money.

Home-grown fruit, vegetables and flowers surround the farm shop and the stylish 70-seater café serves an imaginative menu using local produce from the kitchen garden.

Farm Facts

  • 60ha, 30 beef cattle, 150 laying hens and two pigs
  • £1.2m turnover (2013)
  • Farm shop, two cafés, butchery, kitchen garden, events, on-farm businesses
  • Winner of more than 10 local food awards

Winning Ways

  • Strong leadership and valuing of employees
  • Business-savvy
  • Excellent understanding of how to create a ‘destination’ and brand
  • Continual willingness to learn and improve
  • Good understanding of marketing and use of promotions and events

Eggs from the farm’s 150 laying hens, milk and ice cream from local dairy farms, ales from the on-site microbrewery and British cheeses pack the farm shop.

The butcher’s counter stocks beef from Hartley’s 30 Aberdeen Angus cattle, and lamb, chicken and pork from other local producers.

Customers will also find an on-site florist and coffee barista in renovated pig sheds. Outside, a kitchen garden, community allotments, kids café, English flower garden and a farm trail can be explored.

Tom’s marketing skills and drive to connect community and food are evident from his knowledgeable employees, promotions and packed diary of events, including meet-the-suppliers events, supper clubs, barbecues and foraging courses.

The environment is also a top priority at Hartley. A 50kW solar PV system has been installed, natural stone walls restored, native trees planted and the farm is part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Tom is a member of a local carbon reduction group and the beef cattle graze year-round on nitrogen-fixing clover and a range of grass species.

Some of Tom’s greatest strengths are his awareness of himself as a manager and his keenness to learn. To this end he worked with a business coach and is now better able to delegate to his 30 staff.

He has a positive approach to his employees and encourages them to lead projects. His solid management structure and sharing of data with his team means solutions and improvements are found together.

Tom’s attention to business performance is clear in his monthly targets and detailed monitoring of transactions, average spend, margins and new and returning customers.

A businessman of many talents, Tom has enabled a small family farm to thrive once again and bring his passion for food and farming to the local community.


Lesley and Ian BuxtonLesley and Ian Buxton
Yorvale Ice Cream, North Yorkshire

Astounding business skills and hard work have led the Buxtons to build a well-recognised, £1m ice-cream business from 36 cows and 32ha. Companies now come to them for frozen dessert expertise and they have supplied the Queen.

Ashley and Nicola TysonAshley and Nicola Tyson
Stepney Hill Farm, North Yorkshire

With unending passion for quality food, community and the environment, the Tysons have created a 27ha local food business with soaring views, award-winning meat and a big heart. Customer focus and innovative ideas abound.

Sponsor’s message

Asda“This year’s finalists are a diverse set of businesses but all have shown huge drive and entrepreneurialism. They are fantastic examples of why being a local food farmer takes many skills, talents and passions.”
Pearce Hughes, agricultural development manager