WHAT began as a way of using blackberries picked on countryside walks has become a thriving business for Pembrokeshire preserve producer Anne-Marie Harries, who has just opened a new base for her burgeoning business.
She first began selling her jams at her parents’ pub – The Farmers Arms – in Mathry. Now with not one but three Great Taste Award winning preserves to its name, Farmers Food at Home’s jams, chutneys, and marmalades sell like hot cakes from retailers across the county and beyond.
There are now more than 25 different varieties of preserves, among Crab-apple, Rosehip, Rhubarb & Ginger, Seville Orange Marmalade, Courgette & Tomato chutney, and the Great Taste Award, one star-winning Chilli jam. There are also tempting seasonal varieties such as Gooseberry & Elderflower, Strawberry & Pimm’s, and Black Currant & Gin.
Explains Anne-Marie, “When out walking with my dog Bobby I’d pick berries, but I didn’t know what to do with them, so I started making bramble jelly and selling it at the pub – and it took off from there.”
The Farmers Food at Home range is regularly available at craft and produce fairs and food festivals. They can be found in holiday cottages and B&Bs too and was recently served to cyclists in the Tour of Pembrokeshire race.
Now, in addition to foraging for berries in the hedgerows, Anne-Marie grows a range of fruit and vegetables at her home in Llanreithan near Haverfordwest.
She believes she gets her green-fingers from her late father, Bryan Farmer, who before becoming a publican had been a farmer, growing cabbages and cauliflowers, while her preserving skills she also accredits to her ‘genes’.
“I’d never made any jams before, I cooked meals at the pub, but I was more a savoury person. However, my grandmother was very much into making preserves, and I remember the jars in her pantry – so I guess I must get it from her!”
Her new preserve HQ – aptly named ‘The Jam Shed’ – is conveniently situated in the middle of an acre of land where Anne-Marie, keen to produce as many ingredients as possible, grows her fruit and vegetables.
The Jam Shed is surrounded by fruit trees, soft fruits, berries, and also a polytunnel which is home to a variety of produce including tomatoes and chillies while Anne-Marie forages locally for the likes of rosehips and crab-apples.
The move from her home kitchen to a purpose-built 9m x 6m unit has revolutionised production for Anne-Marie and her part-time assistant.
She says, “I’d outgrown the kitchen, we still make everything in small batches, but we can now use equipment I was not able to use at home. Hopefully, we’ll be able to become Salsa registered, and then we can supply wholesalers and bigger outlets.”
Practical food production advice came from the Food Centre at Horeb, and Anne-Marie’s business has been helped to grow by Cywain – a Menter a Busnes delivered project that supports the development of growth orientated businesses in the food and drink sector in Wales.
She says, “Cywain have been great, they have been there with everything from test trading and courses to one-to-one support and help with my website.”
Said Lowri Davies of Cywain, “It is great to see Anne-Marie taking her business to the next level with the opening of her new unit. Farmers Food at Home is an award-winning brand and it now has the facilities that will enable it to grow even further.”