The Park family have a growing legacy at Low Sizergh Farm
PUBLISHED: 14:57 07 July 2011 | UPDATED: 12:03 28 February 2013
Over the past two decades Low Sizergh Farm has gone from strength-to-strength under the stewardship of the Park family. Emma Mayoh reports
There is more awareness and knowledge than ever about our food. Where our fruit, vegetables, meat and fish come from is being celebrated more than ever as consumer demand for traceability escalates at a veracious rate.
But John and Marjorie Park were championing the connections between food and farming 20 years ago. The couple farmed at Ellel, near Lancaster, but as their family grew, they decided to move to a bigger place. They took on National Trust land at Low Sizergh Farm, near Levens in 1980.
The introduction of milk quotas shortly after their move meant their small dairy herd would no longer provide them with a living. They started a pick-your-own strawberries scheme which quickly progressed to them also selling fruit from the porch of the farmhouse. In 1991 they opened a farm shop, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in June. It was the start of their ambition to encourage people to connect with food as well as being able to create a livelihood for their children, Alison and Richard.
Marjorie said: We felt, at that time, as though the connection between food and farming had almost disappeared. Supermarkets and big retail outlets were springing up and they seemed to be taking over.
We felt it was so important to bring local and speciality products to the fore. We wanted people to know more about their food. We wanted to awaken peoples taste buds and say no to the bloody awful, over produced supermarket food. We found wonderful food from artisan producers who were producing in small batches. This was what it was all about for us.
Since then Low Sizergh Farm has grown considerably. As well as having the farm shop, there is also a tea room, gallery and a farm trail. Part of the site is also used by Growing Well, a social enterprise which gives horticultural training and grows produce as a way to support people recovering from mental health issues.
The food produced at the site has been used by chefs, including Great British Menu winner Lisa Allen, they have won dozens of awards and are a leading light in the local food industry as well as supporting the rural economy.
For some years the business ran as an organic business but difficult growing conditions, the poor economy and the reduced rates they were getting for their organic milk meant that last year they decided to drop the organic standards and went back to conventional milk production.
Marjorie said: It was a decision we took as a family and it was one we made after a lot of discussion and consideration. It was certainly not something we did lightly.
It has made little difference to what people see at the farm and we still maintain the high standards we have always had. It was a shame to have to stop but it wasnt possible for us to continue.
Today, 20 years since they started, traceability and the passion of the Park family is still at the heart of Low Sizergh Farm. They are still upholding the traditions and dreams they first set out with. John is taking more of a back seat now with son, Richard, running the farm. Marjorie and Alison look after the farm shop, gallery and tea room and they are showing no signs of stopping. Richards daughters Hannah and Emily also help out at the farm on weekends and during school holidays.
For Alison, who also oversees the Farm Trail, she could not be prouder of being involved in the family business.
She said: It is a fantastic experience working with your family and to work together for the good of your family.
Its incredible to think that time has gone so fast. We havent had chance to think about being here for 20 years. We are always so busy. But it is something we are certainly very proud of. Hopefully, we will still be here for the next 20 years.