The Thompson family have been farming fruit and vegetables at Holt Farm, in Great Oakley near Colchester in Essex since 1948.
We are specialist growers for Chinese restaurant market in the UK growing greens and salad onions as well as apples, pears, plums, apricots and figs. We also produce award-winning apple juice Cotchel and Reliquum Spirits using fruit and botanicals grown on the farm. Recently we have diversified into innovation research and trial crops for restaurants, including some well-known Michelin-star chefs.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of pubs and restaurants we are no longer able to supply the restaurant and hospitality and so we have completely transformed our business to offer home delivery of fruit and vegetable boxes to make sure that local people have access to fresh produce and to ensure that crops that we have in the ground are eaten and enjoyed.
We are working other local growers like Fairfields Farm potatoes and local strawberry growers and teamed up with other food & drink producers from Essex and Suffolk to champion their produce.
The combination of our own produce and the delicious food & drinks from local producers has prompted the suggestion we are becoming an online farmers market. We couldn’t be happier with the idea.
It’s been an incredibly fast learning curve since we launched in April and incredibly rewarding dealing directly with customers. This is a long term plan for us and marks the start of selling produce direct to local people.
Stone fruit, figs, rhubarb and citrus.
We grow a selection of varieties of apricots and plums, while our outdoor fig orchard is the only one in the UK. We also have our own variety of rhubarb. The farm is home to a number of trials of other new fruit including citrus.
Apples & Pears
We grow Braeburn, Opal® and Topaz and Evelina apples and Conference Pears. We are innovators in fruit growing, always selecting and tasting new varieties to find the best.
Thompson’s Leaf and Salad Onions
We are the sole producer of Thompson’s Leaf, an important ingredient for Chinese restaurants and Jumbo Salad Onions selected and grown exclusively for the Chinese sector.
Instead of letting the unwanted apples and pears from our farm be wasted, we turn it into delicious juice. Our range of four juices have won many awards with Topaz & Evelina achieving the highest Three Star accolade at the Great Taste Awards 2018.
Small batch spirits made with fruit grown on our farm. At Reliquum Spirits, we marry innovation in fruit growing with the experience and wisdom of our partners the English Spirit Distillery to create exceptionally delicious spirits including an Apple Brandy akin to Calvados but smooth and flavourful; London Dry Gin made with own-grown botanicals and Reliquum Plum and Apricot with tree-ripened fruit from our orchards.
Thompson’s British Baijiu
Thompson’s Baijiu is made from 100% British Sorghum grains, fermented and distilled in an Essex distillery. Baijiu is China’s most popular spirit but is unfamiliar to British palates – it is smooth with a distinctive malty and umami flavour and distinctive aroma.
Where we are
Our fields and orchards at Holt Farm near Colchester straddle the ridge that runs down the north eastern tip of Essex. We enjoy a maritime climate perfect for growing with the Stour Estuary to the north, the marshes and backwaters of Hamford Water to the south and the North Sea to the East. The combination of light and the mild climate gives us the ideal conditions for fruit and vegetable growing.
How we farm
As farmers we are aware of our duty to care for the land, for the benefit of future generations, as previous generations have cared for it before us. It is incredibly important that we look after our local and wider environment and we take this responsibility seriously. We manage the farm sensitively to try to encourage wildlife and to ensure we reduce our impact on the wider, global environment.
George Thompson, grandfather of Pete who runs the farm today, worked in agriculture all his life moving from Suffolk to Essex after the Second World War. In 1948 he bought Wash Farm, as it was called then, after the old wash pond used for swelling cart wheels. George was a wholesaler, growing and selling fruit and vegetables to London markets.
Over the years George’s son, Michael, expanded the farm buying up land as it became available and growing large quantities of vegetables.
The present day
Today we farm about 400 acres, working with neighbouring farmers to allow rotations. The farm is run by George’s grandson Pete Thompson, who lives at Holt Farm with his wife and young boys.