There is a famous sketch from the satirical t.v. puppet series ‘Spitting Image’ where Margaret Thatcher is sitting at the Cabinet table with her colleagues when a waiter asks what she would like to eat and then asked, ‘What about the vegetables?’, she answered, “They’ll have the same as me”.
Brilliant fun, and vegetablist in today’s terms no doubt, but what about the real vegetables?
Are they getting a raw deal? Has their reputation been shredded?
Are they for the chop? Gone off the boil?
When third generation farmers and expert butchers, Victoria and James Robertshaw, developed a farm shop at their working sheep farm in Thornton near Bradford, they could not have contemplated the success that it would bring them.
Immediately popular and a profitable business to (wellington) boot, they soon had plans for expanding the business.
The bustling canal-side market town of Skipton is the official ‘Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales’ as it sits on the A65 road, used by thousands of motorists on their way to or from the Dales and the Lake District.
The Robertshaws opened Keelham Farm shop just off the A65 at Skipton, in a massive modern barn in June 2015, and repeated their initial success, but on a larger scale.
Keeping to their sustainability, affordability and local supply philosophy they have established themselves here as a destination, not simply somewhere to call in en route to somewhere else. Positive word of mouth recommendations means that their fame is spreading far and wide. That is the strength of the brand.
They have more than 400 local Yorkshire producers and farmers on board and have also initiated a ‘Veg Exchange Scheme’ whereby anyone signing up can bring in their own produce to sell in exchange for shop credits. Strict quality checks ensure that this is top of the range, fresh foodstuff. More than 200 individuals contribute to this great idea. The range and variety of Yorkshire products is amazing.
Inside the barn, you are immediately struck by this quality and the great prices.
There is a basket of free fruit for the children to choose from and eat.
There are free food samples as well as food and drink events throughout the year.
In addition to the fruit and vegetables, there is a wonderful bakery, alehouse, fresh juicery, coffee grinding facility, flower shop and magnificent butchers counters.
The variety of home made pies is legendary and I have a particular penchant for their pork pies.
There is a Home and Garden section too and at very reasonable prices. Kilner glassware, as well as Mason and Cash brands feature prominently.
At one end of the barn is the Keelham Kitchen, a restaurant in which everything is prepared from scratch. Very popular are the sharing boards at £14 – £15, which come in Grocer’s, Fisherman’s, Ploughman’s and Butcher’s varieties.
You can’t help nosying at them when they are delivered to nearby tables, so tempting is each one.
‘Big Plate Specials’ come in at around the £10 mark for mains.
You can even go to the butchery department to choose and buy your own cut of meat or type of sausage and for a small fee, they will cook it for you, to your direction, in the restaurant kitchens and serve it to your table. Now that is style!
Upstairs is ‘The Mezz’, a mezzanine area serving teas, coffees, sandwiches and cakes.
We sat in a comfy leather settee and took the cream tea option, a pot of tea for two (Yorkshire Tea, naturally), and on wooden boards – TWO different scones, a pot of jam, a pot of cream and four of the most gorgeous sandwiches each. At £7.50 p.h. a very good deal.
The fillings were generous, fresh and tasty, whilst the scones were delivered warmed.
Even the toilets were outstanding, with Belfast sinks, porcelain tap turners and very stylish décor and fittings.
All of the staff encountered were friendly and chatty, making the visit even more worthwhile.
None of the above has gone unnoticed and at the 2017 Farmshop and Deli Awards, they received three awards including the top accolade, The Retailer of the Year Award.
They are also shortlisted for the Best Independent Retailer in the North at the Great British Food Awards, to be announced in October 2017.
The Keelham Shop at Skipton can be found at BD23 1UD whilst the original farm shop at Thornton is at BD13 3SS. Local villagers can even take advantage of the free ‘ Shopper Hopper’ bus to both premises.
More details, directions, menus and the various activities and events can be seen at www.keelhamfarmshop.co.uk
A visit to Keelham Farm Shop, combined with a visit to Skipton, whether for the best preserved medieval castle in the country, a canal trip, or the fantastic street market, is an excellent day out.
Let’s hear it for those vegetables!