When good food is a family affair

Villa Farm Shop, Bradley, Brighouse.
Villa Farm Shop, Bradley, Brighouse.

Producing quality food is a family affair for the award-winning Kershaws.

Though the family has been in farming at Bradley for generations, it is only in recent years that the retail side of the business has begun to take off - and over the past three years Villa Farm Shop’s produce has won numerous awards.

The family business at Bradley, near Brighouse, is run by Sue Kershaw, her son Richard and his wife Yvonne, and her daughter Sam and her husband William.

“We are a close family and we all work well together. We all want the best for the business and we play to each other’s strengths,” said Yvonne.

The family’s recent success stems from November 2009 when the decision was made to extend the existing small shop and add a butchery and delicatessan counter.

The shop aims to sell mostly locally-sourced produce and to promote Yorkshire food. Building up the business, selling new products and attracting new customers has been a particular pleasure and has coincided with a general rise in interest from consumers in where their food comes from.

“We love chatting to our customers, we have tastings and demonstrations and we are always open to suggestions for new products,” said Yvonne.

Over the past three years William Gill has won a number of awards for his home-cured bacon and range of flavoured sausages.

Though pork sausages remain a firm favourite, he also produces more exotic varieties - such as beef and ale, which has been a best-seller since it was introduced recently, chilli, black pudding, pork and leek and rainbow sausages, made of the leftovers from the other mixtures.

He said: “We have learned a lot from talking to other butchers and judges at the competitions we have entered.

“Though we have been doing this for only three years we are now doing better in competitions than butchers with 20 years’ experience.”

William loves experimenting with new sausage varieties and has had few failures - pork and rhubarb is one that springs to mind.

“The flavour was good but the texture wasn’t quite right - but there are a lot more varieties waiting to be discovered,” said William.

At this year’s BPEX competitions in Harrogate William’s sausages were awarded 99 points out of 100 and took gold awards, as did his home-cured bacon.

Despite making between 90 and 100lbs of sausages a week, he hasn’t lost his appetite for a decent ‘banger’.

Yvonne said the development of the shop had coincided with a rise in interest among consumers about where their food came from.

“We have a board behind the meat counter showing where the produce is sourced. We believe that locally-sourced produce is fresh and tasty and is better for animal welfare and the environment.”

As well as meat, the shop sells milk and eggs from the family’s farm, bread and cakes, jams and chutneys, cheeses and fruit and vegetables, all from regional suppliers.

The shop’s lunchtime trade in sandwiches and pies is thriving thanks to orders from nearby factories - and thanks to Yvonne and Sam’s inventiveness in offering speciality sandwiches and tastings.

They have also been working with the Huddersfield Coeliac group to sell gluten-free products. Yvonne produces recipe cards, offering consumers new ideas, and keeps customers informed through a regular newsletter.

In addition Villa Farm Foods takes part in the Totally Locally street markets in Brighouse and in Huddersfield Food Fair.

“Between us Sam and I have four children who are growing up and that has given us a bit more time to concentrate on developing the business,” said Yvonne.

“We have lots of ideas for taking the business forward. We never relax and rest on our laurels - we always have something new in the pipeline.”