Pick Your Own at Tibbs Farm
Having some of the most wonderful farms in the country on our doorstep its always great to see our local farms running quality and exciting endeavors that gives locals a chance to explore their work and grounds and gets to take a piece home with them to enjoy. One farm in particular that really brings true to this is Tibbs Farm. We have some words from Tibbs and take a look in to their back ground and their work and urge anyone to pop along and pay them a visit this year.
In 1956 Ken Wheeler, our Grandad, moved to Parsonage Farm just west of Rye. Coming from a hop growing family in Kent he grew hops, fruit and farmed sheep and cattle, a traditional mixed farm of the time. Today, little has changed. We still grow hops commercially, one of a diminishing number of growers in the country, as well as fruit and sheep.
Most people will know us simply as Tibbs Farm. The name is obvious, it’s the name of our farm but it came into the public sphere when we first opened the farm up to Pick Your Own (PYO) in 1976. Home freezing had just taken off and with it rose the opportunity to freeze freshly picked soft fruits to eat throughout the year, a real novelty at the time. However, the rise of supermarkets and the demise of true seasonality saw this heyday in the attraction of PYO farms fade and consequently lots of PYO farms disappeared as other more profitable ventures were sought. However, we persevered and today the PYO has seen a change in form. Offering an experience is key. We grow more fruit than ever, with taste being the number one aim. We grow fruits you’re unlikely to see anywhere else to include Boysenberries and Tummelberries. We champion diversity of varieties. A Gooseberry isn’t simply a Gooseberry at Tibbs – we grow 6 varieties from the big tart green Invicta to the sweetest grapelike red Xenia. To anyone who says they don’t like Gooseberries I say try an Xenia.
In the Summer of 2020 we embarked on further farm diversification with the opening of a café. Perched overlooking the Tillingham Valley with our hop gardens, apple orchards and sheep grazing below the café is open year-round. We serve good breakfasts, light tasty lunches and make all our own cakes. We call it a café but in fact it’s more than that. It provides us a platform to showcase everything we produce on the farm and has allowed us to introduce further enterprises to the farm to include a small herd of pigs, a Beech hedge maze and guided farm tours. We didn’t want to go down the pure farm shop route offering a one-stop grocery shop, but we do try to maintain a year round supply of our own exceptionally free range eggs, apple juice and Great taste award winning jam. Aside from the PYO fruits seasonal treats and enterprises through the year include asparagus, home grown Christmas trees, PYO pumpkins and decorative hop garlands.
We’ve had sensational support to get where we have so far but it hasn’t been easy. Obtaining planning permission in the first place was very difficult and was only eventually won by shear weight of support from villagers and locals despite zero objections. It was humbling and we are so grateful for all the support we received.
We see Tibbs as an ever-evolving project with lots more to come yet and several plans in the pipeline for this Summer. They’re a farming family at the core and they want this to resonate through everything they do.
The PYO fruit season at Tibbs starts in early June with strawberries and Gooseberries with masses of other fruits to follow from late June. See their website or follow on Facebook and Instagram for the latest farm goings-on.