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Duchy Home Farm, Tetbury

PUBLISHED: 18:05 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:32 20 February 2013

Fresh, organic, produce still with the soil on

Fresh, organic, produce still with the soil on

Organic vegetables from the Prince of Wales' estate...

Anne Cox warmly greets one of her regular customers. "Hello, Chevy! Which vegetables are you going to be buying today?"


Chevy pauses for a moment, taking in the succulent array in front of him. On his right, there are soily beetroot and crisp onions, piles of spring greens and creamy parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes and swede, all plucked from the ground of Duchy Home Farm, a short tractor ride away. On his left, tumbling over the wooden tables, are organic red peppers, lemons and bananas, which have arrived here from sunnier climes to keep the display colourful and the choice varied.


"Broccoli," he says, decisively.


Not every three-year-old could tell you their favourite vegetable, but Chevy is a prized customer at the Veg Shed. With bright eyes, glowing cheeks and a perfect physique, he's a welcome antidote to the fast food fests and tubby toddlers that seem to epitomise the age.


Mind you, even Chevy can be fussy, as mum Michelle Everett, from Tetbury, explains. "Carrots and stir fries were a big winner, but they're now out and cauliflower cheese is in," she laughs.


"We started shopping here a year ago, and I pretty much buy all my vegetables here each week. When you first come, it's tempting to think: Potatoes covered in mud? What a palaver! But now I love the fact that things have soil on them."


Indeed, the evocative potting-shed smell is one of the first things you notice when you visit the Veg Shed, where the Home Farm vegetables are sold each week. Even in farmers' markets - wonderful as they are - there's not the same full-frontal assault. In this barn on the Highgrove estate, the earthy aroma is a sensual reminder of that vital connection between the landscape around you and the food you eat.


It's exactly what you'd expect from produce that bears the Duchy Home Farm label of The Prince of Wales; produce that's grown in ground run on the strict ethical principles he has espoused so passionately. It was in 1986 that he decided to convert this land, on the edge of Tetbury, to an organic system. Twenty years on, The Prince is still as vocal about the issues that are close to his heart; but nowadays, the produce also speaks for itself. The farm is home to rare breeds such as Gloucester cattle and Cotswold sheep; it supplies organic mutton to Calcot Manor and the Ritz in London; and it's at the forefront of education - spelling out the connections between food, farming, health and the environment.


Anne and her husband, Ian, joined the Duchy Home Farm team in 1998, when they set up an organic vegetable box scheme for The Prince. Although Anne is a teacher by profession - with a degree in philosophy - she'd spent some time working with Ian, a gardener and grower for more than 30 years. "It was strange how it all happened," Anne recalls. "Ian and I had been thinking about asking David Wilson, the farm manager, if we could set something up, when he approached us - a case of serendipity!"


They began with orders for 50 boxes, which they filled from a small strip of land they'd been allotted. Today, six people are employed including Catherine Pyne who has taken over running the box scheme side of the business. The original patch of land has spread to around eight acres, supplying upwards of 250 boxes a week to homes within a 15-mile radius of Tetbury; they also grow wholesale carrots and potatoes for local schools, restaurants and supermarkets.


The Veg Shed itself came into being nearly three years ago as a result of box scheme customers asking if they could choose their own vegetables. Consequently, one of the barns was decked out with tables, and every Wednesday - while the rest of the team is busy packing boxes backstage - Anne is out front, selling directly to the tens of people who pop by to shop.


Ann Tarlton, from Cherington, is one such regular. "The smell of the place takes me back to my childhood - to the celery my grandfather used to grow," she says. "The most important thing for me is that I know I'm going to get exactly what the label says - vegetables that are fresh and organic."


She and her fellow shoppers can be in no doubt that this is the real thing. On the walls of the 'shed' are photographs of Ian and his team out in the fields, picking the crops by hand, weeding between plants, and hoeing to break down the soil. There are explanations of how yellow-flowered tagetes are used to keep greenfly away from susceptible fruits, such as young peppers. Other pictures show cosy plants swaddled in fleece to raise the temperature and extend the season; it's also a good barrier against pests - a traditional organic method that eschews the need for harmful sprays and pesticides.


The farm's philosophy isn't restricted to the organic principles of working with nature and caring for the soil. It permeates every aspect of the Veg Shed. Take note of the fact that customers, whom Anne invariably greets by name, actually smile at each other. (Heavens! Surely vegetable shopping can't be such a pleasurable experience?). The catatonic trance of the supermarket shopper is nowhere to be seen.


The shed is constantly filled with friendly chatter. "You might prefer a fleshier squash to make soup with," Anne will advise a customer. "You want big chunks if you make soup." Or perhaps she's on her mission to get more people to try Jerusalem artichoke; if they take one of her recipe cards, they can't go wrong with this more unusual root vegetable. Next year, the team are hoping for a crop of scorzonera (it failed to germinate for the first time this year) which, with its intriguing flavour, is in demand with a growing number of their customers as well as cordon bleu chefs. And if you're still short of ideas for dinner, then pick up one of the 'soup bags', ready-packed with the ingredients you need for a nutritious broth.


"We want vegetables to be beautiful and exciting," Anne says, "with lots of variety so you can have an interesting diet with the widest selection of nutrients possible.


"Even eating organically, you can eat cheaply if you're not wasteful. A lot of our customers are the sort of people who never throw things away; they'll always find something to make with leftovers."


"Actually," says Sue Smee, as she lifts a heaving basket onto the checkout, "it's never a dreary case of: 'What am I going to do with this?' with the farm's vegetables. They inspire me. I'll look at something and feel excited at the dishes I can make."


She's not the only one: Chevy and his mum have now accumulated their own healthy bundle of food for the week. After this, it's time to move on to the next important job - a morning at nursery.


"What do you like best about school, Chevy?" Anne asks, as she tots up the shopping bill. "Is it the sand, or the painting, or just playing with your friends?"


It's an easy question. Looking her straight in the eye with the assurance of a true connoisseur, Chevy shakes his head at all of these suggestions. The answer is obvious: "It's the orange juice," he explains.


Of course it is: the expert has spoken.



Anne Cox warmly greets one of her regular customers. "Hello, Chevy! Which vegetables are you going to be buying today?"


Chevy pauses for a moment, taking in the succulent array in front of him. On his right, there are soily beetroot and crisp onions, piles of spring greens and creamy parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes and swede, all plucked from the ground of Duchy Home Farm, a short tractor ride away. On his left, tumbling over the wooden tables, are organic red peppers, lemons and bananas, which have arrived here from sunnier climes to keep the display colourful and the choice varied.


"Broccoli," he says, decisively.


Not every three-year-old could tell you their favourite vegetable, but Chevy is a prized customer at the Veg Shed. With bright eyes, glowing cheeks and a perfect physique, he's a welcome antidote to the fast food fests and tubby toddlers that seem to epitomise the age.


Mind you, even Chevy can be fussy, as mum Michelle Everett, from Tetbury, explains. "Carrots and stir fries were a big winner, but they're now out and cauliflower cheese is in," she laughs.


"We started shopping here a year ago, and I pretty much buy all my vegetables here each week. When you first come, it's tempting to think: Potatoes covered in mud? What a palaver! But now I love the fact that things have soil on them."


Indeed, the evocative potting-shed smell is one of the first things you notice when you visit the Veg Shed, where the Home Farm vegetables are sold each week. Even in farmers' markets - wonderful as they are - there's not the same full-frontal assault. In this barn on the Highgrove estate, the earthy aroma is a sensual reminder of that vital connection between the landscape around you and the food you eat.


It's exactly what you'd expect from produce that bears the Duchy Home Farm label of The Prince of Wales; produce that's grown in ground run on the strict ethical principles he has espoused so passionately. It was in 1986 that he decided to convert this land, on the edge of Tetbury, to an organic system. Twenty years on, The Prince is still as vocal about the issues that are close to his heart; but nowadays, the produce also speaks for itself. The farm is home to rare breeds such as Gloucester cattle and Cotswold sheep; it supplies organic mutton to Calcot Manor and the Ritz in London; and it's at the forefront of education - spelling out the connections between food, farming, health and the environment.


Anne and her husband, Ian, joined the Duchy Home Farm team in 1998, when they set up an organic vegetable box scheme for The Prince. Although Anne is a teacher by profession - with a degree in philosophy - she'd spent some time working with Ian, a gardener and grower for more than 30 years. "It was strange how it all happened," Anne recalls. "Ian and I had been thinking about asking David Wilson, the farm manager, if we could set something up, when he approached us - a case of serendipity!"


They began with orders for 50 boxes, which they filled from a small strip of land they'd been allotted. Today, six people are employed including Catherine Pyne who has taken over running the box scheme side of the business. The original patch of land has spread to around eight acres, supplying upwards of 250 boxes a week to homes within a 15-mile radius of Tetbury; they also grow wholesale carrots and potatoes for local schools, restaurants and supermarkets.


The Veg Shed itself came into being nearly three years ago as a result of box scheme customers asking if they could choose their own vegetables. Consequently, one of the barns was decked out with tables, and every Wednesday - while the rest of the team is busy packing boxes backstage - Anne is out front, selling directly to the tens of people who pop by to shop.


Ann Tarlton, from Cherington, is one such regular. "The smell of the place takes me back to my childhood - to the celery my grandfather used to grow," she says. "The most important thing for me is that I know I'm going to get exactly what the label says - vegetables that are fresh and organic."


She and her fellow shoppers can be in no doubt that this is the real thing. On the walls of the 'shed' are photographs of Ian and his team out in the fields, picking the crops by hand, weeding between plants, and hoeing to break down the soil. There are explanations of how yellow-flowered tagetes are used to keep greenfly away from susceptible fruits, such as young peppers. Other pictures show cosy plants swaddled in fleece to raise the temperature and extend the season; it's also a good barrier against pests - a traditional organic method that eschews the need for harmful sprays and pesticides.


The farm's philosophy isn't restricted to the organic principles of working with nature and caring for the soil. It permeates every aspect of the Veg Shed. Take note of the fact that customers, whom Anne invariably greets by name, actually smile at each other. (Heavens! Surely vegetable shopping can't be such a pleasurable experience?). The catatonic trance of the supermarket shopper is nowhere to be seen.


The shed is constantly filled with friendly chatter. "You might prefer a fleshier squash to make soup with," Anne will advise a customer. "You want big chunks if you make soup." Or perhaps she's on her mission to get more people to try Jerusalem artichoke; if they take one of her recipe cards, they can't go wrong with this more unusual root vegetable. Next year, the team are hoping for a crop of scorzonera (it failed to germinate for the first time this year) which, with its intriguing flavour, is in demand with a growing number of their customers as well as cordon bleu chefs. And if you're still short of ideas for dinner, then pick up one of the 'soup bags', ready-packed with the ingredients you need for a nutritious broth.


"We want vegetables to be beautiful and exciting," Anne says, "with lots of variety so you can have an interesting diet with the widest selection of nutrients possible.


"Even eating organically, you can eat cheaply if you're not wasteful. A lot of our customers are the sort of people who never throw things away; they'll always find something to make with leftovers."


"Actually," says Sue Smee, as she lifts a heaving basket onto the checkout, "it's never a dreary case of: 'What am I going to do with this?' with the farm's vegetables. They inspire me. I'll look at something and feel excited at the dishes I can make."


She's not the only one: Chevy and his mum have now accumulated their own healthy bundle of food for the week. After this, it's time to move on to the next important job - a morning at nursery.


"What do you like best about school, Chevy?" Anne asks, as she tots up the shopping bill. "Is it the sand, or the painting, or just playing with your friends?"


It's an easy question. Looking her straight in the eye with the assurance of a true connoisseur, Chevy shakes his head at all of these suggestions. The answer is obvious: "It's the orange juice," he explains.


Of course it is: the expert has spoken.



The Veg Shed, open Wednesdays from 8am-5pm, is at Broadfield Farm, Tetbury GL8 8SE - look out for the orange signs on Cherington Lane, just off the A433.


You can also find Anne at Stroud Farmers' Market on the first and third Saturdays of each month, and Cirencester on the second and fourth.


For information on vegetable boxes, ring 01666 503507 or email vegbox@duchyhomefarm.org.uk





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