Born in 1955, my family owned and ran shops and markets after the second world war in Lancaster, Morecambe, Kendal and Barrow in Furness. I began working on the markets when I was seven years old…
When I was 17 my father died, and I took over the last remaining market stall in Barrow in Furness. I started farming Wild Boar in 1993 when my brother bought me four pigs in a pub one night for my birthday! I built the business attending markets in the UK, and in the summers agricultural shows and fairs all over Europe. I was proud to sell my regional northern food products, made with passion and care, anywhere!
1998 saw me attend Henrietta Green’s Food Lovers Fair at Borough Market in London with the Two Fat Ladies, which then became the start of the retail farmers and producers in Borough. Initially, this was just once a month, but then Sillfield Farm had a permanent site there. I certainly earned my living the hard way – every Wednesday night, fifty-two weeks of the year, we loaded up a large van with produce (such as hand made pies, wild boar fresh meat and Westmorland cheeses) and drive down to London.
In 2017 we came out of Borough Market, and now trade from our stall in the market in Barrow in Furness, weekly/monthly markets across the north-west, and shows and fairs throughout the UK.
In 1994, Sillfield Farm won the “Best Market Stall Award” out of over three hundred market traders at the Dutch International Market in Den Bosch.
We attend many individual indoor and outdoor markets and events throughout the UK and abroad – including Ireland, Scotland, Holland, Spain, France, Italy, and Germany.
As a member of the N.M.T.F (National Market Traders Federation), I helped to set up the Southern Irish Market and Street Traders Association.
I strongly believe in the Slow Food movement, which encourages and promotes local food and artisan food production. For more information please see ‘Slow Food’ page.
I am also much involved with the promotion of quality food and food production through the media – successfully steering many journalists and broadcasters in what is regarded as the “right direction”. Programmes in which I have been involved include: ITV’s “This Morning” with chef Phil Vickery, Rick Stein’s “Food Heroes”, Clarissa Dickson-Wright’s “Clarissa and the Countryman”, the BBC 2 series “Jimmy’s Farm”, “Jamies Kitchen”, “Kill it Cook it Eat it”, “Grubbs Up”, “Market Kitchen”, “Saturday Kitchen” and “Despatches”. I also presented a programme for BBC Open University titled “Bringing Home the Bacon”.
My media popularity i can only blame on BBC Radio 4 Food Programme.
Derek Cooper visited our farm in 1994 and we featured on the Food Programme after his visit. Since then, with the guidance of the presenter Shelia Dillon, numerous programmes have been recorded and all those in the independent food sector continue to listen to the most up-to-date happenings on food.
I live and work with my wife Christine, who looks after the farm whilst I am away.
My son Martin and his partner Nicola Robinson, continue in the food business by milking their own sheep and making St James, a superb raw milk cheese at Holker Farm, near Grange over Sands.
I am proud that he continues the farm to fork tradition that my grandfather and my mother passed down to us.
I see myself as a “Man with a Mission”, who works very hard not only to keep my business successful, but also to bring inspiration and enthusiasm to all those with whom I associate.
Good food after all, is one of the greatest pleasures in life.