Hi, Amanda here! Id love to take a few minutes to tell you a bit about our business and how we started growing hops and flowers for decoration.
My family has been farming in Kent, where we live today at Chalkpit Farm, for 3 generations and much has changed across the agricultural landscape since my Grandfather started farming in 1954. Diversification was the order of the day by the time Mike and I left university and when my father made the decision to stop growing hops for beer in 1989 my mother wasnt quite so keen to let go. She persuaded my father to keep one acre one hops in production so that she could continue the tradition of hanging hops in the farmhouse.
Mike and I met at Wye Agricultural College and it was in 1990 when I came back to the farm to help with harvest, that I saw an opportunity to sell hops for decoration at the farm gate. Mike joined me, and our first year was spent exploring the decorative flower market and our own business Essentially Hops was born! The rest, as they say, is history. Since our small beginnings when we we started Essentially Hops alongside my father's family farm. We have developed, grown, adapted and become the vibrant business we are today. I took on the tenancy of the family farm in 1996 and now we operate the whole farming enterprise.
Today, Mike focuses on the farming and growing side whilst I work with my team to grow the retail side of Essentially Hops.
Chalkpit Farm is a 415 acre predominantly arable farm (growing mainly wheat) which we manage as efficiently as we can, with the help of a machinery share with two neighbouring farms. Mike has his hands full running both the arable activities as well as keeping us stocked with hops and a wonderful array of fresh and dried flowers & grasses. We also grow and harvest for a small number of commercial partners and we are delighted that once again our lavender will be available in choice M&S stores this year.
25 years ago we started simply selling hops to local pubs, restaurants and passing traffic! Today, through our farm shop and our on-line store we have been able to reach a wider market and we have continued to evolve and expand essentiallyhops to reflect this. As growers and driers with a depth of experience, we are able to experiment with different flower crops and this has allowed us to create the broad range that we offer today. Providing both fresh and dried products delivers a wonderful variety of home decoration ideas throughout the year.
We are hugely proud of our fresh flowers and the fact that Essentially Hops is now recognized as a destination Florist - both for our every-day flowers and also the wonderful wedding arrangements that we create. The combination of hops and wild flowers makes for the perfect Country Wedding. Our farm shop, tucked away in an old stable building in our farmyard, has also expanded over the years. Today, as well as being home to our florist, it stocks an ever expanding range of essentiallyhops-branded products (candles, oils, etc.), dried flower arrangements, country gifts, pots & containers and everything you need to make your own arrangements. Our seasonal flower arranging demonstrations and talks have been hugely popular and we continue to promote traditional crafts and skills whenever we can.
As traditional growers we are heavily focused on the environment and creating a balance between modern farming methods and the protection of the wonderful wildlife that shares our land. We were delighted to support the M&S garden (Natures Hidden Heroes: Bees, Bugs and Butterflies) at 2014 Chelsea Flower Show, which promoted biodiversity and how we can all play our part to protect it.
Essentially Hops is a family business and will always remain that way. We are a small team that is passionate about what we do and wed love you to come and visit us at Chalkpit Farm to see for your self. Over the past decade we have expanded our farmyard to create a rural shopping destination (Chalkpit Rural Shopping) where alongside the local vet you will find a coffee shop, a fine food delicatessen, a maternity and childrens shop, a picture framer & gallery and a pop-up Shepherds Hut shop - so come and make an afternoon of it!
Were nestled in the center of the village of Bekesbourne which boasts a long and varied history including an association with Ian Fleming (Octopussy was written here), the Archbishops Palace (where the Book of Common Prayer was written), a beautiful Saxon church and much, much more.
Essentially Hops farm shop is open Monday to Saturday (except between Christmas Day & New Years Day) or why not come and see us at one of our many events.
We look forward to seeing you soon.