Shon was born on this farm, the very house he still lives in now. His Richard was a busy farmer so ‘to see him we had to work’. And work on the land what he, and his Simon, did. Having completed the Royal Berkshire college of agriculture and done some forestry work, Shon came back to Rother Valley to set up the first line of Aberdeen angus beef to Waitrose. In the early 2000s Spracklings started to convert to organic – to this date the biggest conversation the Soil Association (link) had seen.
Then followed our first meat box scheme, we began working with other local farms we trusted, like the Goodwood Estate (link), to source a variety of meat. One day in 2003 Paul, who’s now our master butcher, swung by for a week to help with our organic dog treats (another story!). The Yorkshireman never left. Rother Valley could now take over the world (well, the Southern counties that is…)! But then the recession came and we were on the brink.
Two things that saved us. Selling locally via farmers’ markets has always been hugely important to us for connecting directly to our customers. Tim Brock at Hampshire markets (link), a butcher son himself, had been a great support to us in the early days. Then Sam came on board to think outside the boxes, to grow our wholesale business – supplying schools, and later universities such as the
London College of Communication, Greenwich University and the iconic Central St Martins. Seeing the faces of kids scoffing happily our organic burgers has been one of our proudest moments.
Almost 20 years on, Rother Valley has grown a tad, we all live in a different world… but we are still just a bunch of guys, with the Spracklings at the heart of the business, looking after our cows, fields, customers and neighbouring farmers. Still valuing that banter and warmth above all else.