In 1902 my Great Grandparents Charles and Alice chose to settle our family in the small village of Alvingham 3 miles Northeast of Louth, Lincolnshire. They are seen to the right with three of their sons stood in the grounds of Grange Farm with our family home behind them.
Great Grandad Shaw established a successful market gardening business specialising in early chitted seed potatoes along with growing flowers, fruit, cucumbers and tomatoes. Glass houses were built to accommodate all of this produce, pictures of which can be seen in the early aerial photographs. A small shop was opened for local families to buy produce at our family home Buxton House and deliveries made in the local vicinity. 'Charlie's tomatoes' were not to be missed, he is seen sat outside the greenhouses amongst his produce.
My Great Grandparents had five sons and the youngest, John, (my grandfather) took to the land from an early age. He fondly told customers the story of being sent to serve his first customer in the yard at the age of 13, selling a stone of seed potatoes. In 1935 he officially joined the business and continued the tradition of market gardening, 'Jack' as he was known to many, was involved with the family business for over seventy years. He and Granny worked tirelessly growing tomatoes, hundreds of pounds of strawberries, lettuce and many other seasonal salads, fruits and vegetables. Jack served in the retail shop into his mid eighties as seen in the bottom photo on the right hand side.
My father, Robert, worked hard for Grandad learning the trade of market gardening, of sales to local retailers and delivering fresh produce. Grandad and Dad formed the partnership “J. Shaw & Son” in 1971 moving away from market gardening, gradually expanding product lines by working with other local growers and farmers offering a hub of local produce supplemented by produce from across the UK and where necessary the world via large commercial import specialists. Mum, Carolyn, worked alongside Dad helping to grow the business and in the mid nineties a new retail shop was built in the yard to continue to serve local families at Buxton House.
In 2011 my brother Michael and I joined the family business on a full-time basis and since then we’ve worked under Dad’s watchful eye but with the insight of our own farming and catering backgrounds. We were incredibly fortunate to have served several other businesses in the area and also run our family farm shop at the yard for a further nine years in Dad’s existing business structure.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020 whilst many businesses were having to close their doors, we as an essential food business were allowed to continued operating and almost overnight our business changed completely. Panic buying set in, extremely vulnerable people were asked to isolate (including my father and brother). To manage both the availability of produce and the safety of our team and family we closed the yard and began operating a time allocated collection and home delivery service serving hundreds of local households.
Our community stepped up in a way one could never imagine, suddenly, I had friends and family phoning up volunteering their time supporting our team to come and pick and pack orders, help with deliveries, answering telephones and generally being a tower of strength when the world seemed dark and very unfriendly. I shall be forever indebted to these friends and family who helped keep our small family business alive when otherwise we might not have survived.
In the thick of the pandemic my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and my brother (already a dialysis patient) was diagnosed with Leukaemia. Therefore, in April 2021 we announced that we would no longer be offering a wholesale delivery service, hoping to better manage our work life balance and enjoy more family time together. Both diagnoses given and a year of the pandemic really forced us to look at what is important, family. It was a very difficult decision to make as we knew we would be letting people down but knew that we sadly could no longer offer the wholesale delivery service if we were to improve our health.
From May 2021 we have been concentrating our efforts on the retail farm shop, operating Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 4pm. We’re really focusing on selling as much fantastic local Lincolnshire produce as we can, luckily, we live in a county abundant with fresh produce. To offer a wide range of potatoes, vegetables, salads and fruits we do source from across the UK and world, but only where necessary. We also stock local products such as honey, coffee, bread, cooking ingredients and publications such as The Louth Leader and the Lincolnshire Life Magazine.
Mike and I, together with our parents and hardworking team welcome you to visit us and hope as the food critics say, you leave feeling it was well worth the detour!