So what made two qualified chartered surveyors give up their well paid jobs and lovely cottage near Bath to convert an old piggery into a Farm Shop near Newmarket? Our friends and family said madness, lunacy & insanity but we like to think it was passion… Which maybe is the same as the former?

Both being farmer’s son and daughter, Jo and I had a huge interest in traditional food production and loved the excitement of sourcing and eating good local and seasonal food.

A t the time, I was an agricultural land agent in Somerset (and a semi professional rugby referee in the Premiership & European Cup). Foot & Mouth was rearing its ugly head and I was valuing on behalf of DEFRA the devastated farmer’s ill fated animals. We’d always wanted our own business and felt a change was needed – and a change it certainly was! We sold our cottage which mostly funded the development of a 2500 sq ft redundant piggery on Jo’s family farm near Newmarket and opened in October 2002.

In 2007 the economy had slowed significantly but although we weren’t recession proof we were fairing better than most businesses as we had an established loyal customer base and people still had to buy food. Then in October 2007 a lightening bolt came out of the sky. Whilst attending a trade show I had a stroke which left me temporarily speechless and confused. At the age of 36, and thinking I was immortal, it was a bit of a blow.Ten weeks later we had our little lad Jack. Although I was back at work within a week or so the doctors were being grumpy about my long term prognosis and Jo was naturally out of the business looking after Jack. We were as they say in a bit of a pickle.

After heartfelt discussions and despite having fantastic staff we decided we had to sell the business we had built up. Within 2 days of the decision a large Garden Centre and Farm Shop made us the offer to buy the shop at well above the asking price.

Three months of tenancy and contractual negotiations etc went on and our staff were invited over to their “soon” to be employers business. Two days to go to exchange the buyer pulled out. All sorts of excuses poured out but I suspect economy, financing and a little bit of cowardice were the main issues. In the mean time after numerous tests the doctors had found that I’d been born with a hole in the heart which had allowed a clot through to the brain. So off to Papworth with me and 2 keyhole heart ops.

After a fairly difficult year the doctors were thankfully being far more positive and the uncertainty of our future was killing Jo & I.

NO LOOKING BACK!

We then decided “blow everything” and we would continue to run the business we loved and had worked hard to build over 7 or so years come hell or high water. To this end we committed ourselves to developing a 70+ cover café/restaurant onto the farm shop last September which thankfully has had a really good start and been amazingly well received. Since then we haven’t looked back.

We’re proud to support over 100 local farmers and food producers along with the farm here at La Hogue, attract over 2000 customers a week and employ nearly 30 local people. I feel incredibly lucky that the wonderful NHS gave me brilliant attention and Jo & I are able to continue to build what is the business we literally stuck our house on!

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