Charlie and Sarah Hughes have been running the award-winning Charlie’s Farm Shop in Pulborough, West Sussex, since 2013. It’s a big development on what was formerly an honesty shop selling the raw milk, cream and eggs from Southview Farm Dairy, which has been the Hughes’ family farm for three generations.
The Hughes’ still sell raw milk ‘directly from the farm gate’ as well as pasteurised milk, cream yoghurt and their own luxury ice cream. ‘Our dairy produce is as fresh as it can be,’ says Sarah. ‘Within twenty-four hours our milk may have gone from udder to our customers’ cornflakes!’
The butchery sells their own twenty-one-day-aged beef, rose veal and milk-fed pork as well as lamb, poultry and game from other suppliers. Add to this fresh fish, bread from Jengers of Billingshurst and Hungry Guest, wines, spirits, fruit, veg and groceries, and their customers have all they need from a supermarket – without the food miles.
As Sarah says, ‘We believe in good quality, local produce and supporting other producers like ourselves. We are lucky that there are lots of great food producers in Sussex so this has made stocking the shop with lots of lovely produce an easy task.’
Charlie and Sarah believe that traceability is among the most important things to consider when choosing food. ‘We all know that food is more nutritious the fresher it is and the fewer miles it has travelled,’ says Sarah. ‘An organic product, if grown abroad and travelled to the UK, is not going to be as nutritious as something grown down the road.’
Charlie’s Farm Shop is a favourite with nearby villages and its position on the busy A29 helps bring in passing trade. It’s a labour of love and old-fashioned hard work, however, as the Hughes are essentially responsible for three businesses in one: the farm of fifty cattle and 110 milking cows, the dairy and the shop.
‘The low milk price is a constant challenge,’ says Sarah. ‘We only pasteurise half our milk and the rest has to be wholesaled at a price lower than the cost of production.’ It’s supermarket policies like this that makes it even more important that we support enterprising producers like the Hughes, who are passionate about what they do.