There is nothing too glamorous about supermarket food shopping, though online ordering, click and collect, and slotted deliveries are important and all have their place, particularly at the moment. But guaranteeing what you buy is locally produced and fresh and seeing ‘in the flesh’ what you’re about to eat is also important, which is why one local family run business is flourishing during these unpredictable times.
Eggs to Apples is an award winning farm shop at Hurst Green on the border of East Sussex and Kent, which doors opened in December 2014 by Susannah and Craig Hewett on the former site of a farm shop run by Susannah’s parents in the 1970s and 80s.
Since opening, Eggs to Apples has won a number of regional awards including Best Newcomer at the Sussex Food and Drink Awards and has twice been crowned Muddy Stilettos best in class. The farm shop has also been short listed for national awards including the Farm Shop and Deli Show awards and the coveted Guild of Fine Foods Retailer of the Year.
It describes itself as a market place for local growers, makers and producers, representing over 50 local suppliers at any one time, but changing with the seasons. June sees local produce from five different farms with asparagus from Ladysden Farm in Goudhurst, strawberries and sweet peas from Cedar Farm in Hurst Green, new season cherries from Dallaways in Sandhurst, organic salad and greens from Stonelynk Farm in Pevensey, while using David Catt and Sons for quality produce from other Kent farms and further afield.
There is a cheese counter with five local cheesemakers represented as well as the best of the regional and continental cheeses. The deli counter sells locally baked pastries, charcuterie and salads perfect for stay at home lunches and picnics.
The Fresh Fish Shop in West Sussex supplies a range of fresh and smoked fish and Garlic Wood Farm in West Sussex, an ethical butchery, provides free range pork and chicken and grass fed beef. The Sussex Kitchen provides daily artisan bread and Hinxden Dairy the milk and cream. Add to all of this a well stocked pantry of whole foods, baking goods, condiments and more.
There is an unrivalled view from the terrace over the Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the garden has a well curated range of plants for sale as well an on site florist Sophie from Astilbe and Sorrel, specialising in seasonal English flowers throughout the summer. In good times the café serves light lunches, outstanding coffee and locally baked cakes and pastries. You can pick up a take away coffee and it won’t be long before you can sit in the herb garden again.
Eggs to Apples Farm Shop has a long standing relationship with Dom’s Food Mission in Hastings and make regular deliveries of short dated produce as well as donations from customers and staff. St Michael’s Hospice also collect a weekly fruit box which goes direct to staff to enjoy on their well earned breaks.
As a food retailer it remained open throughout lockdown, the first few days and weeks were very stressful as they tried to navigate through the restrictions with very little support or guidelines at local level. It closed for one day to re-organise the shop into a one way system and, since then have been operating social distancing, which includes a maximum of six customers in the shop at any one time, with a member of staff on the door at all times to brief customers.
A contactless collection service was introduced for customers who prefer not to enter the shop and, with the loan of a chilled van from Arthur Alsop, cheese maker extraordinaire, they have been able to deliver to the surrounding villages, in the early weeks with very grateful feedback from people who had been unable to secure any sort of supermarket or other food delivery.
Being an independent business with strong supplier relationships has proved its worth during this crisis as it has worked together with local connections to get stock and supplies in for customers. It has continued to have a plentiful supply of fresh produce and some of the other items in short supply elsewhere such as flour and eggs.
The café remains closed for now and the owners miss encouraging customers to stop a while. Their culture has been built on customer service and putting the joy back into food shopping. Where before customers could chat, browse and stop for coffee, now it is a more streamlined approach, but the staff are still smiling and on hand to help everybody navigate their way through the necessary changes.
Eggs to Apples Farm Shop is at London Road, Hurst Green, East Sussex TN19 7QP
01580 860566 or 07779 014720 www.eggstoapples.co.uk
Image Credits: Eggs to Apples .