Day 9 – This Farm Shop loves: ORGANIC!

So what is Broom House Farm Shop all about? I asked Emma and she says that there are three main pillars, organic, local and colour! Let’s start with organic.

Organic farming is farming without the use of herbicides, pesticides or artificial fertilisers such as factory made ammonium nitrate. Welfare regulations are much higher than standard and the use of any medicines must be agreed and monitored.

When we took on the tenancy at Broom House farm in 1999 it was nearly all arable. This was partly due to the subsidy system at the time, which paid farmers for growing crops.  The fields up here are comparitively small and also at rather too high an altitude for growing arable crops for profit without subsidy.  Preferring livestock anyway, we gradually changed to a livestock system. By 2004 there were subsidies for converting to organic and we took this opportunity to start conversion in October 2005. The farm became fully organic in 2007, registered with the Organic Farmers & Growers.

We are a livestock farm – and most of our fields grow grass and clover/herb mixes.  Some crops are grown, such as oats and peas and forage crops like kale – with the aim of creating a healthy rotation to improve the soil. We produce as much of our own feed for the animals here as possible and the beef and lamb is finished entirely off grass. The whole farm has been in the Countryside Stewardship Scheme since 2001, with the aim of preserving the beautiful North Durham landscape and improving conditions for wildlife on the farm. We have restored and planted hedgerows, rejuvenated hay meadows and encouraged wading birds, grey partridge and brown hares to breed across the farm. Organic farming has worked really well for us, Mark enjoys this way of farming and it is rewarding to see the improvements to the landscape over the last few decades. It helps that some of Mark’s best farming friends, the Nelles and  Rutherford brothers, became organic at a similar time, and also farm Lleyn sheep and Aberdeen Angus cows, and have Huntaway sheepdogs (although that bit is perhaps less important!). They can call and discuss ideas and problems and have helped each other out along the way. The Nelless family produce the free range organic Northumberland Bronze turkeys we sell in the farm shop at Christmas.

We stock other organic produce wherever possible, we have stocked Acorn Dairy since 2007 and also sell organic chickens from Piercebridge and organic vegetables from the Organic Pantry, based in Tadcaster. It’s quite frightening to see the difference in how quickly an organic carrot turns to mush compared to a conventionally farmed carrot… just what have they sprayed on them to make them last so much longer?! We also stock organic pasta sauces, beers, cheeses and much more…

Here is a BBC good food recipe for a Chicken, Mushroom and Leek pie, if you fancy making it organic you can buy most of the veg from our farm shop, and there are plenty of bay leaves growing on the bay trees next to the duck pond!




  • Put the chicken in a large pan with the bay, half the thyme sprigs, the parsley stalks, onions, garlic, stock and seasoning. Pour the milk over the chicken and, if you need to, top up with water to make sure the chicken is covered. Bring the chicken to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 15 mins. Lift from the liquid and leave to cool.

  • Drain the poaching liquid through a sieve into a large jug – you need 650ml to make the sauce for your pie.

  • Meanwhile, heat the butter in a saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the leeks and the mushrooms, and cook for 5-10 mins until soft, then season well. Add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Slowly add the poaching liquid, stirring until you have a thick sauce.

  • Using two forks, pull the chicken apart into thumb-sized chunks rather than chopping it – I feel you get a far better pie this way. Chop the parsley leaves, then stir into the leeks with the thyme leaves, crème frâiche and chicken. Check the seasoning, then spoon the mixture into your pie dish (or dishes) to cool slightly.

  • Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Roll out the pastry on a lightly dusted work surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut thin strips from the edges and use a little water to stick these around the lip of the pie dish, then wet the top of the pastry strip. Lift the pastry on top of the pie, trim the edges and crimp them with your fingers or a fork. Brush the top with milk and cut a steam hole in the middle.

  • Put the dish on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 20-25 mins until the pastry is risen and golden.