The Big Apple - in Kent

The new Chegworth Valley Farm Shop on Kensington Church Street is owned by the Deme family - farmers from Kent.
The new Chegworth Valley Farm Shop on Kensington Church Street is owned by the Deme family - farmers from Kent. "When we purchased the farm in 1983, it was a dairy farm,” says family head, David. We chose to establish a fruit farm and over the next 10 years planted over 30,000 apple and pear trees of many different varieties. Now, all the apples and pears on the farm are completely organic and certified by the Soil Association, and we have in excess of 40,000 apple trees alone.” Other soft fruit was added over time and Chegworth began to attract supermarket and large wholesaler interest. “But,” continues David, “they were only concerned about size and shape - not smell and taste or farming methods used. Happily, at about this time new Farmers' Markets had started opening up, showcasing likeminded producers to ourselves. We attended.” It was indeed a Farmers Market, located in the car park behind where the new Chegworth shop is located, that inspired them to open a permanent retail venue in this particular locale. “We already knew lots of customers in the area,” says David, “so it seemed a natural thing to do to offer our produce seven days a week rather than only four hours a week.” Fresh fruit apart, juices were the initial products that Chegworth excelled at, comprising a range of 100% pure apple juices and a selection of aromatic blends using pears, raspberries, strawberries, beetroot, rhubarb, blackcurrants, and blackberries. David says: “We introduced them in response to customer request. Many concentrated juices available have the natural juice heated to a very high temperature, leaving a thick sludge of questionable nutritional value which is later reconstituted with water and other concentrated "aromas". Also, dominant Juice Drinks often only contain around 5% actual fruit juice. With this in mind, we bought a traditional press and started making our own with fruit picked only hours ago.” “Among our own specialities when it comes to veg is oak leaf lettuce which we just started cutting this August and is proving a sell-out.” It all means that this is a very seasonal shop. What’s on offer today may not be tomorrow. It’s all about freshness. Some 20 people work on the farm, but the main family members are David’s wife, Linda, his son Dennis, and daughter Charlotte who is in prime control of the shop. “ Our fruit compôte, made on the farm, is always a sell-out,” she tells us. “It’s not exactly a jam or relish (both of which we also make) - you open the jar and pour it straight onto cereal, yoghurt or ice cream. Short life but great! It has a great reputation in London and when we have it we sell a couple of hundred pots of it a week.” Currently, Chegworth is increasing its farm’s acreage, particularly for vegetables, and brand new kitchens were installed this summer for the jam/relish making. Soon, too, you’ll be able to order online for same day delivery. “The whole thing about this shop,” sums up David, “is to sell things we produce on our farm or by other farmers who go to Farmers Markets. There isn’t another shop in central London doing this, so we feel we’re pretty unique.” CHEGWORTH FARM SHOP 221 KENSINGTON CHURCH STREET W8 7LX TEL: 020 7229 3016