28 July 2020
We recently visited Andy Clarke at Park Farm butchers in Hawkshurst. Park Farm is a low intensity pasture farm rearing cattle and sheep for a discerning butchery outlet in the village of Hawkhurst.
Park Farm butchers is situated in a quaint and un-spoilt pretty Kent village and has a very traditional feel with its welcoming bunting clad shop front in an area of Kent, the county regarded as the ‘Garden of England’.
Andy Clarke and his son William farm around 300 acres of typical Wealden farmland in the parish of Hawkhurst, with the emphasis being firmly on traditional methods to provide grazing and winter feed for the livestock, as well as supporting areas of wild flower meadows, natural habitat, woodland and ponds.
Andy states that “Most of our livestock are born and reared on the farm which qualifies for Farm Assurance under the ‘Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb Scheme’.”
We asked Andy a few questions about the benefits of employing 2 apprentices through the Plumpton College butchery apprenticeship scheme, and how this has helped his business. We also asked how he has adapted his business model to meet demand during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and how they have handled working on the ‘front line’.
“I think one of the most beneficial things is that you can teach and mould apprentices to your way of working from the beginning. Sometimes when you take on a new member of staff, they have already learned skills, and in some cases bad habits, and it can be more difficult for them to adapt to your way of working.”
“We have had to make considerable changes to the way we operate as we were no longer able to allow anyone into the shop. Over 90% of our business has been from online purchases and we have been operating a delivery service to the local community as well as click and collect and have actually experienced an increase in trade with many customers preferring the convenience of having their meat delivered to their doors!”
“We’ve had a website for many years, but one of my apprentices, Henry has a keen interest in web development and has been instrumental in creating our online shop platform. This has enabled us to keep trading and adapt to a new way of operating but has also provided a vital service to the local community which has been particularly important for the old and vulnerable.”
“I would definitely recommend taking on an apprentice. I currently have 3 apprentices ranging from aged 17 to aged 25, all at different levels of study. They all contribute a great deal to the business.”
“Working as an apprentice is more than just learning the craft. You need to be organised, be personable and enjoy working in a team, and have good English and Math’s skills. Don’t be shy or intimidated as working in a busy team is really fun and rewarding work!”
Since the original 400-acre College farm was bought back in 1919, Plumpton College has certainly seen a lot of changes.