The farm shop that is a 20 year old icon of inspiration

With some disquiet, I’ve just booked to go to the 20th birthday celebration for the iconic, organic Abbey Home Farm Shop and Cafe.

Actually a lot of disquiet: 20 years – how, where, why can this be? I’m still only 16 or maybe 19 but certainly no more; I still haven’t scored the winning goal for Doncaster Rovers at Wembley; I still haven’t had my Number One hit record, which is also the title song to the box office smash film I wrote and starred in, nor have I yet written the widely acclaimed, award winning book it came from. It just can’t be 20 years ago that Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play and the Abbey Home Farm Shop and Cafe was set up.

Ok, the link is a stretch as it’s actually 50 plus years since Sergeant Pepper rocked out of Abbey Road but the Abbey Home Farm extravaganza has some of the same feel, colour, culture and eclectic style and – like the album – is still an eye opener. This is a fairy tale that defies convention. It cannot be. Yet it is. A wondrous dream come true.

Marking this anniversary almost – only almost – makes being 20 years older OK. The shop and cafe remains fresh, inspiring and a trendsetting revelation, constantly expanding the boundaries of what a farm and food based entity can do and achieve.

Explaining the rationale behind Abbey Home Farm, owners Hilary and Will Chester-Masters say they “believe farms are for feeding the local population, not for growing one thing that is sent all over the country or the world, often benefiting the middleman more than the producer.”

They are also passionate about opening up the farm and the food it produces to local people, to school children and all manner of groups. Like many in the organic movement they believe that it is crucial to reconnect society to the biological basis of our planet of finite and diminishing resources.

In the face of climate breakdown and ecological destruction we often hear that “business as usual is not an option” but policy after policy that comes from government, industry and their academic and media hacks is little more than business as usual tweaked and dressed up in fake tat which only imitates reality through a haze of smoke and mirrors.

But Abbey Home Farm is the real thing and is far away from being “business as usual”. The farm began converting to an organic system in 1991. The farm shop and cafe followed on in 1999 and then came a whole range of open days, courses and education initiatives. This is an inspiring model for real change that is still evolving and having an ever greater impact with each passing year.

Lawrence Woodward

6th May 2019

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