The remarkable Broadditch Farm
For centuries past, working farms played an integral part in the economy and workforce, particularly in rural communities that heavily relied on crop rotation and livestock. And for Southfleet and its neighbouring villages, it’s Broadditch Farm that has long provided this requisite source. Six generations strong and showing no sign of slowing down, this local institution is unwavering in its push for provenance, and today, sells its own freshly grown produce in its onsite farm shop.
by Gemma Dunn
A lifelong local resident, Broadditch has always been on my radar – spanning from buying goods in its farm shop this present day to frequent (and excitable) childhood ice cream trips, which still remains the stuff of nostalgic memories. Brimming with character, it’s a special place for many, but none more so than the Harris family – its enduring proprietors.
Since moving to the 500-acre farm on New Barn Road in 1848, having previously farmed in Bedfordshire, the Harris’ have proved pioneering in their techniques and forward thinking. As 5th generation brothers, Wilf and Frank, recall, their father purchased the first combine harvester for miles around in 1949. Having both worked on the farm since leaving school in the 1940s (alongside their father), and taking over officially in 1968, it’s fair to say this duo are incredibly experienced in the trade.
Today, Wilf’s sons and sixth generation Harris’, John and Mark, run the farm, which has evolved from its traditional roots – growing hops, apples, vegetables, and housing cattle – to a regime that supports a fully stocked farm shop, hosts successful seasonal events, leads school visits, and more.
Broadditch Farm Shop – the main recipient of the fruits of their labour – was established in 1990, and will celebrate its 25th anniversary this May with a special tasting event across 23rd-24th of the month.
Expanded in 2000, after selling one of the farm’s barns to Shepherd Neame (now known as Manor Farm Barn), the shop now affords a larger floor space, preparation room, and first-floor offices to accommodate the back-of-house team.
Channelling the philosophy: ‘reduce your food miles, so your food tastes miles better’, the farm shop pledges to supply fresh homegrown and harvested produce direct from its surrounding fields. In addition to cropping 230 acres of wheat, 70 acres of oilseed rape, 65 acres of barley, and 40 acres of beans, flavoursome potatoes and a wide selection of vegetables are grown especially for the shop, which all benefit from no added water or irrigation. In fact, in 2001, Broadditch joined the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which encourages farmers to create and preserve one’s natural habitat. Since having progressed onto the higher level, John and Mark continue to protect and honour this achievement.
In addition to its farm-grown fare, the shop supports various local producers, stocking meat from Glover’s Farm and Harvel House Farm; homemade pies from Real Pie Co.; cheese from Cheeseworks; eggs from Barradale; cakes from Country Cakes and Plaxtol Bakery; fresh bread from The Granary, and much more. In a bid to offer a one-stop-shop, seasonal gifts and unique greeting cards are also now available.
The brothers’ desire to branch out and offer the customer a multi-site experience is an idea that also extends to the farm’s decision to run year-round seasonal events. From Easter and summer to Halloween and Christmas goings-on, its popular events are a huge deal and provide unique and entertaining family days out. Perhaps best loved is its Halloween Hauntfest, which attracts hoards of visitors every year, and has been nominated for five awards at the 2015 ScareCON Annual Recognition Awards (SCARs).
Kent is peppered with farm buildings that have been converted into shops and delis, and packed imaginatively with honest foods, but amid expansion of the supermarket chains and a recession, today these shops have even more relevance. As Broadditch Farm advocates, the focus should be on understanding where out food comes from, supporting local, and taking pride in our consumption – just like the British farmers do that provide us with the goods.
Hats off to the insight and hard work the Harris farmers have put in and continue to put into our community. And in a day when it’s uncommon to find a profession with so many generations from one family devoted to it, doesn’t it just make Broadditch Farm that bit more special. I certainly think so!
Broadditch Farm Shop, Manor Farm, New Barn Road, Southfleet, Gravesend DA13 9PU