Melton Mowbray already has a rich foodie heritage, with its World famous pork pies and legendary blue cheeses produced by the village dairies in the Vale of Belvoir, but vying for a place in that pantheon of produce is a relatively young farm shop with a large and loyal customer base.
The Belcher family have farmed the land around Great Dalby for many years and Michael and Heather are well know at markets, locally and around the country. Now, though, it is Dan and his fiancee Jo who are the driving forces behind the March House Farm Shop, next to Eye Kettleby Lakes on the North side of the village.
First and foremost March is a working family farm. Aberdeen Angus, Shorthorn and South Devon cattle; Leicester Blue Face sheep and White and Gloucester Old Sport pigs all graze land in Little Dalby, Great Dalby and Thorpe Satchville, as well as over in the Charnwood Forest area near XXX.
They opened their thriving farm shop in November 2017, with the adjoining cafe opening in December 2018. There is a fully equipped butchery on site and they recently added a fully stocked online shop to their portfolio.
No farm shop can ever claim to only sell their own produce but March House Farm Shop prides itself on supplying meat which is all home grown.Their sheep, cattle and pigs all contributing to the fare available, and they pride themselves on their produce having the bare minimum of "food miles". Gates' Nursery (Hambletons Butchers - nothing to do with the hotel or the bakery) and Northfield Farm for example, cannot provide all their own meat. Be sure to ask where it is from if you shop there!
Meat is the flagship product, being born and grazed on the farm before making its way to the butchery at the farm shop. There the derivatives like mince, ham, bacon and sausages are made, as well as cooked products like pies, quiches and soups.
I became a customer during the Covid-19 lockdown in Spring 2020, so I can't write at length about the cafe, but I do know it has a loyal following of regulars. he staff who work there, though, have been re-trained to help both in the shop and with the fulfilment of online orders, of which there are between 40 and 80 every day..
The shop is always fully stocked, unike some of the supermarket shelves in the area. If the supply chain fails them, Jo always seems to be able to find something to replace it from another source. The shop has remained popular throughout the virus pandemic of 2020; a pool of regulars choosing to come and shop in person every week. I bumped into the BBC's Jonathan Agnew, ITV's Ann Davies and cricketer Matthew Hoggard on several occasions. Matt from The Great Food Club is a regular too.
Not everyone can get there in person, and with many people being told to self-isolate it was important for March House to make their produce available online. "We had been working on it for a few days when Boris announced the lockdown," Jo told me. "We had Nico here, who is a photographer and web developer, and we just pushed really hard and got the whole thing made in five days." The demand was so high at launch that they chose to switch the site off a few times to give the team all learning new skills on the hoof - time to catch up. There are a limited number of collection and delivery "slots" each day, but demand remains high and the list of products available online grows ever day.
One of the original product lines which was only available to order online was food boxes. There are simple ones for basics and essentials; small or large boxes of vegetables, or fruit, and boxes of meat intended to feed a family in isolation for a week. As the online shop has developed, m ore boxes have been added. At the time of writing I am drooling over a rib of beef box, one of a collection of family meal boxes which revolve around the core products of beef, lamb and pork.
You can find March House Farm Shop on the road out of Great Dalby which heads to Eye Kettleby and Kirby Bellars. It is open seven days a week, closing at 5pm (4pm on Sunday). If you are isolating and live within twelve miles of the shop, or within 9 miles of Ketton, you can have free delivery, provided your order is over £40. Customers further afield can either collect in person on an allotted day or pay a courier charge to have it delivered. The shop is at www.marchhousefarmshop.co.uk.