Our father started doing pick-your-own back in the 1970s and when he died the papers said ‘Death of a pioneer’. It was then, that the idea of selling local food and drink, from our farm and other incredible passionate producers, direct to customers was born.
Over the past 50 years, with a lot of hard work and determination - and many ups and downs - Darts Farm has organically grown into the unique shopping and lifestyle destination that you know it as today. I am sure that mum and dad would have been so proud to see us continue what they started all those year ago – in a small hut in the fields on the banks of the River Clyst – but I think they would be even prouder to see the incredible passion and enthusiasm that is coming up through from the next generation of the Dart children – their grandchildren.
We have an amazing team and one of the biggest challenges is integrating our family members in. For me it's important that they start at the bottom and work their way up, gaining knowledge and respect as they go...
A couple of years ago, Jack, Paul’s son came home and joined Big Dave, Adam and Waldeck on the farm. It’s been great to see him get stuck in with the team working on up-coming new farm projects; from a new and improved Animal Corner to a Kitchen Garden and many more pick-your-own crops, including our iconic strawberries that we are famous for! Keep your eyes peeled, there'll be plenty to pick soon.
We are now growing more fruit and vegetable crops than ever before… This month alone we are handpicking broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, celeriac, leeks, savoy cabbage, kale, potatoes, red and white cabbage, parsley, sunset and purple cauliflower, romanesque, sweetcorn, squash, fennel, pumpkins, spring onions, spinach, swiss and rainbow chard, tender stem broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, runner beans, fine beans, aubergines, lettuce and marrows; we even have melons and chillies too! We are also growing a selection of beautiful wild flowers, that our amazing florists are using in their hand-tied bouquets. All of the above grow in rotation with grasses and legumes for our Ruby Red Devon cattle, enriching our soil health and our farms biodiversity.
At the end of last year, after finishing university, George, my eldest joined the business. Working closely with me and the marketing team on new product ranges and supporting our brilliant suppliers through a series of different campaigns. His energy and excitement is so contagious – it’s amazing to be around.
He started to visit a selection of our suppliers, gaining experience and building his knowledge. As part of this he spent a couple of weeks with Neal’s Yard Dairy; one of the best cheese producers in the country. When Covid-19 hit in March, George was thrown in at the deep end, and it was time to put what he had learnt into practice…
British cheese had come a long way since Mary Quicke first supplied our Mother Enid with cheese and cream for Pic Fresh 50 years ago, and we now have more farmhouse cheeses than the French. However, as supermarkets cut ranges and restaurants closed their doors overnight, many of our incredible artisan producers were left with a mountain of cheese and no way to people’s plates.
So, George worked closely with Mia and the rest of our fantastic deli team to build and refine our deli counter whilst championing our ‘Save British Cheese’ campaign. And what a job they did! They worked with our incredible producer friends to build awareness around the crisis that we were living through and refined our whole cheese selection, to represent the small, unique artisan farmhouse producers; mainly from across the UK, with a specific focus on the West Country.
It’s not just Jack and George though. During the Covid Pandemic, we also had to rope in the rest of the family! Quite early on it became clear that our elderly and vulnerable team members would need to go on ‘Furlough’ and for us, that was quite a few. But we called in the cavalry…
Under the leadership of our incredible Darts Farm team – Mark, Laura, Emma and Heidi - my girls, Maddy, Josie and Kitty were here, there and everywhere. Delivering to the over 70s and vulnerable one day, in The Shack another and on the Deli the next. James’ kids were the same. Millie and Jemima were busy working day-in and day-out, packing boxes and answering the phones in our new online delivery department. Even my sisters’ children, Isaac and Miriam mucked in.
Darts Farm has always been a family run business, it’s what makes us who we are! It gives me and my brothers an incredible feeling to see that the next generation are starting to follow in our footsteps. They have got a long journey ahead of them, but I can’t wait to see what they achieve in the years to come.
Come and join us and pick our Sunflowers for Charity!
Have a day of farm fun with our Maize Maze!