PUBLISHED: 09:36 03 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 February 2013
Michel Hooper-Immins continues his series in which he focuses on stores at the heart of their community with a visit to Littlemoors Farm Shop in HamprestonNovember 08
Blueberries have been part of the Trehane's family life for nearly 60 years. The story began in 1949 when the late David Trehane senior was given 100 blueberry plants by a Canadian grower from Lulu Island, near Vancouver. The plants thrived in the acidic soil of Ferndown Heath and the seeds of a new Dorset enterprise had begun. In 1959, David Trehane senior and his daughter Jennifer bought 1,000 more plants from New Jersey in the USA. The Dorset Blueberry Co is now a flourishing concern at Hampreston.
I'm told that there are 15 varieties around the plantations, differing in season, flavour and bush size. Walking around the bushes, with all sides of the field covered in netting to deter birds, I realised Dorset-grown blueberries have quietly become a big industry.
Jennifer Trehane's son David junior was born at Windermere in the Lakes. Married to Julia, a Hertfordshire girl, they have three children - Harvey, Oscar and Finn. Living in the farmhouse means being available 24 hours a day! David runs both the blueberry plantations and the farm shop. In charge of picking the summer crop is nephew Jaime Goodwin, reading nature conservation at Leeds University.
The idea of a farm shop began in the disaster year of 2000. Bad weather damaged the quality of that year's crop, but Julia used the blemished, but still tasty, fruit to bake 6,000 blueberry muffins in her Aga. Then she and David started selling them round the farmers' markets. Having used up the damaged fruit, David realised they were 'on to something' and so they continued the winning formula. By 2003, the couple were attending 15 markets a week, including five in London.
In 2004, and running out of space in the bakery, the fast-growing business needed a new base. 'We were living in Hampreston village and, one day, I realised the answer was right under my nose,' David tells me. 'Uncle Guy had moved out of Littlemoors Farm a few years before and it was derelict. We planned a small shop, but the more I thought about it, I realised we had to do the job properly.' He set about converting the farm buildings, opening on 1st May 2007. In August last year the coffee shop was added, serving soup, jacket potatoes and light lunches. 'We've no plans to run a full restaurant - at the moment!'
The heavenly smell of fresh baked cakes, and the coffee blended locally by Keith Spicer at nearby Ferndown, indulges the nostrils when rounding the corner into the shop courtyard. The bakery makes fruit and cheese scones every day, and among other tasty delights is the superbly moist and spiced Dorset apple cake, a much maligned species, but Littlemoors' version is very superior variety indeed.
Of course fresh blueberries are on sale - fresh in season from July to September and frozen throughout the winter. The blueberry jam, tangy blueberry barbecue and grilling sauce, and spiced blueberry sauce were all created by the family.
Four miles east of Wimborne Minster and 15 from Bournemouth, Littlemoors Farm Shop is bright and busy. Whilst I was there a constant stream of customers came in and out to buy the shop's fresh, natural and local food. Right away I spotted Isle of Wight garlic bread, then something I've never seen before, Vampire's Delight - garlic and apple chutney. It was good to see the Isle of Wight Garlic Company's produce - including super big tomatoes - being 'exported' across the Solent.
The farm-shop's shelves reflect much that is good from Dorset and neighbouring counties: delicious smoked haddock and horseradish fishcakes from Flying Fish at Honiton - a far cry from the dull supermarket fishcake; superb steak and ale pies from Martin Aldridge at Bridport Gourmet Pies; and delectable wild venison and boar sausages from L&C Game at Buckland Newton. I also spotted a new product from the ever enterprising Dorset Blue soup stable - Emily Davies' croutons with sea salt and pepper. I was pleased to spy, too, the not-often-seen Old Sarum creamy blue cheese.
A number of interesting varieties of coffee were available from Nigel Green's Dorset Coffee Co at Puddletown. These included Dorset Breakfast, Kenya Blue Mountain and Colombian Medellin Excelso. Fresh veggies were in evidence with cauliflowers and cabbages coming from Bournemouth, carrots from Chippenham, and soft fruit from the New Forest.
From the 100 blueberry plants nearly 60 years ago, the plantations have expanded massively. David - never a man to stand still - has initiated a massive expansion of the plantations. Currently, around 25 tonnes of blueberries are harvested, but by 2015, David plans 150 to 200 tonnes. 'Blueberries have become a premium fruit; the UK just can't grow enough, and demand outstrips supply.' Although there are two other growers in Dorset, the Dorset Blueberry Company is the main supplier, 'a challenging position to be in.' Most blueberries are organic, many being sold at Tesco and Marks & Spencer. David also plans a butchery counter, featuring the last butcher in Wimborne, Paul Keating. A deli counter will follow.
'I'm looking to open a second Littlemoors Farm Shop in a neighbouring area,' David Trehane tells me rather mysteriously. 'This is a good time to be in the local-food business because customers are coming back to local suppliers - we provide good-quality and value-for-money food. We're all passionate about what we do here. I personally taste every product that comes in this shop. Today I'm tasting the cakes...
Littlemoors Farm Shop, in Ham Lane (B3073), Hampreston, Wimborne Minster. BH21 7LT, is open from 9am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. (01202 891489 or visit www.littlemoorsfarmshop.co.uk