IT'S just over 100 years since the Geldard family took on the farm and land at Plumgarths to the north of Kendal.

And it’s 20 years since John and Rachel Geldard opened Plumgarths Lakeland Food Park on the site, creating employment and space for food production, food retail, Plumgarths farm shop, and a café.

Since 2017 the farm shop, which also sells eggs from the Geldard's farm at Low Foulshaw, has been owned and run by John and Rachel’s daughter Victoria Hodgson, along with her daughter Anna.

The focus of the farm shop is its traditional butchery counter, which showcases local and specialist produce. Employing nine full and part-time staff, it’s very much a family-run business, and, whilst John has officially retired out of active service in the businesses, he still purchases the farm shop's lamb every week.

Anna, who started working in the shop at weekends and during the holidays when she was 13-years-old, is full-time and in the final year of her two-year butchery apprenticeship. Anna works alongside the shop’s butcher, Peter Allonby.

Victoria says: “One of the consequences of the pandemic has been an increase in home cooking and an increased appreciation of good food, bolstered by huge amounts of streamed and TV content on food and cookery.

“Lamb sales have really benefited from this, mirroring a national trend, and people are looking to try high-quality meat from local farmers.

Market analyst Kantar Worldpanel suggests 2020 was a bumper year for lamb with British shoppers spending 15.5 percent more on lamb in late summer compared with the same period in 2019. And the volume of lamb consumed was also up 11 percent on the previous year. Data shows increasing numbers of families and younger consumers trying lamb too.

“Breeding programmes locally and nationally mean that lamb is no longer the fatty meat some of us remember,” explains John.

“The lambs are meaty with just the right amount of fat covering to ensure taste and succulence, and we are spoiled for choice around here when it comes to well-raised lambs.”

John attends the weekly lamb sales at North West Auctions, preferring to select good quality lambs in-person in order to guarantee good quality meat on the farm shop counter. The selection process relies on a farmer's eye. John was also the Chairman of the National Sheep Association. He credits our landscape and the farmers working from high fells and marginal lands to the lowlands and salt marshes, acknowledging there’s a wide variety of breeds to choose from in the South Lakes.

“Buying direct and seeing the livestock means you are controlling selection and working with different farms at different times of year according to their lambing schedules,” says John.

Asked what is local, John defines it as the nearest supply possible: “In our case that's farms as little as three miles away. And that’s important given the renewed consumer interest in the benefits of buying local - lower carbon footprint, supporting the rural economy and a significant reduction in packaging on fresh meats.”

On one occasion in December 2020, the Farm Shop lamb was as local as it could possibly get, coming from Lewis Hodgson, Victoria’s son, who farms at Crook: “it was the first time his lamb had been put to the public on the farm shop counter,” says Victoria.

John is quick to praise the full network behind the local food offered to customers here in the South Lakes, and says the farm shop is proud to be the end point of an excellent chain.

He makes a final point: “Not only do we have an excellent choice of farms raising lambs, and a thriving rural auction, we have Airey's at Ayside, a local abattoir providing an enormous service to our local community. In some areas, it can be a 100-mile journey to an abattoir.”


John Geldard’s grandfather began as a tenant at Plumgarths Farm, his son and John’s father later bought the farm and land.

A new Kendal bypass – built in 1970 to take people straight into the Lakes - cut the farm in half and made dairy farming unviable.

This presented one of South Lakeland's best-known farming families with an opportunity to do something different: create a new development to showcase local producers and help the farming sector.