Darts Farm: The next generation

PUBLISHED: 10:47 12 August 2020

Paul Dart has welcomed his son Jack onto the farm. Photo: Matt Austin

Paul Dart has welcomed his son Jack onto the farm. Photo: Matt Austin

Matt Austin

The grandchildren of the pick-your-own business founder are playing a big role as the shopping and lifestyle destination rises to the coronavirus challenge

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 direct to customers – from our farm and other incredible passionate producers – 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 dad would have been so proud to see us continue what he started all those years ago in a small hut in the fields on the banks of the River Clyst. But I think he would be even prouder to see the incredible passion and enthusiasm that is coming up through from the next generation of the Darts children – his grandchildren.

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 upcoming 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 for more information.

We are now growing more fruit and vegetable crops than ever before. This month alone we are hand-picking broccoli, 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.

At the end of last year, after finishing university, George, my eldest, joined the marketing and operations side of the business. Working closely with me on new developments and marketing 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.

Over the years we have seen the cheese industry develop and now British farmhouse cheese is the best in the world. Begrudgingly, even the French hold their hands up and admit it. But during the pandemic all the small artisans were at risk of closing their doors as their routes to market disappeared overnight.

So, George worked closely with Mia, Rachel 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 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. Their passion and energy along with their enthusiasm and resilience really are something to admire. They have got a long journey ahead of them, but I can’t wait to see what they achieve in the years to come.

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