Holt Farm was born in 2020 when the world was experiencing a lot of uncertainty following the announcement of a national lockdown. We felt it was our duty to ensure that the community had access to fresh fruit and veg, including those who were the most vulnerable. From that initial simple idea, we have grown month by month into a fully-fledged online farmers market delivering fresh produce to doorsteps in Essex and Suffolk twice a week. Alongside working extremely hard to support the community, we also work with, and champion, an array of fantastic local producers.
Our small (but mighty!) team pride themselves on making sure the ‘Holt Farm experience’ is an extremely positive one. Whether it is a quick chat with our friendly delivery drivers or a fortnightly newsletter keeping you up to date with all the goings on, we want to make our customers feel a part of the journey. We count ourselves extremely lucky to have such a fantastic customer base, always giving us ideas on how we can improve and continue to grow Holt Farm.
The future for Holt Farm is certainly an exciting one, with lots of improvements and additions being made every day. A big thank you to everyone who continues to support us.
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. 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. 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 were no longer able to supply the restaurant and hospitality and so had to completely transform our business to offer home delivery of fruit and vegetable boxes to make sure that local people had access to fresh produce and to ensure that crops that we have in the ground were eaten and enjoyed.
We grow a selection of produce on the farm including rhubarb, varieties or apples and plums, and figs (the only outdoor fig orchard in the UK!). The farm is also home to Meyer lemon trees and an array of heritage tomato plants. For the Chinese restaurant sector, we also grow Thompson’s Leaf and Jumbo Salad Onions.
We are growing as much as we can at the farm itself (and will to continue to increase this) now that we know people are interested in our fruit and veg boxes!
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.