Steeptonbill Farm Shop

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On the edge of Milton Abbas is a haven of local, fresh and sustainable produce – Rachael Rowe meets the man who grows it

Steeptonbill Farm Shop in Milton Abbas – All images: Rachael Rowe

There’s something about the award-winning Steeptonbill Farm Shop that makes you want to start cooking. Whether it’s the freshly dug artichokes and beets or the vibrant display of squashes, I’m resisting the urge to reach for my cookery books and make the most of the seasonal produce.
Owner Steve Gould says: ’I’ve been here for 15 years. Previously I was in the public sector for 28 years. What I aim to do is support the small local growers so they can carry on growing high quality food. We only do seasonal here – you won’t find green beans from Kenya. Look at these artichokes and chard! I dug them up this morning. You can’t get fresher than that.’
Or can you? He hands me a couple of fresh eggs, still warm, just collected from the farmyard next to the shop. Hens run loose in the yard – free range at its finest.
The squashes outside the small shop are eye-catching with their autumnal flashes of orange and golden yellow. Naturally, Steve has grown them. ‘I don’t use any pesticides or chemicals. I just use the ducks, they love the slugs and snails!
‘I wish in my lifetime I could get everyone to enjoy good food.’
The shop in Milton Abbas is open seven days a week, and Steve works at the shop when it’s open. Andrea, who lives in the village, helps with their busy social media channels.
Steve delivers the fresh produce to restaurants and pubs across Dorset.
‘I go to Dorchester, Cattistock, Portesham, Weymouth and Abbotsbury. Some chefs like to come here and dig their own parsnips, artichokes and leeks to show how fresh and local they are. When I’m not out delivering or needed in the shop, I’m working on the farm.
‘It’s so important to know where your food comes from. We are what we eat. Take this beet – I planted the seed. I watched it grow. I looked after it. I know the life it has had in the soil. I know its history and where this food has come from. Can you say that about what you get in supermarkets? The supermarkets are killing us growers. When we’re gone, we’re gone.’
Steve is irate about the cost of potatoes. ‘Last year British spuds were £5 to £7 a bag. This year they are £26 to £28! It’s because potatoes need to be stored cold to stop them chitting. The growers told the supermarkets that they need to put the price up by £1 a bag to meet the costs of the energy for cold stores. The supermarkets refused to increase the price so the spuds were used as animal feed – and the price increased.’

Raw local honey is always a best-seller

Pork and marmalade sausages
Steeptonbill Farm Shop is packed with local produce. There’s bread from Oxford’s Bakery, un-homogenised milk from Meggy Moo’s, Purbeck ice cream and cheeses from Yeovil.
What are his most popular lines?
‘This local raw honey. And more local honey from near Blandford. I sell loads of it, it’s so good. Of course, all these producers are local people. I spend most of my money in Dorset and so do they. It all helps the local economy.’
The colourful stand full of Haribo and marshmallows stands out like a sore thumb from the ethos of local food but there’s a simple reason for its presence.
‘That’s the tuck shop for Milton Abbey School just down the road. They’ll come up here and clear that out!’
There are also chillers full of tempting meat and meat products – Steve raises his own livestock on the farm. ‘I used to have 280 pigs! I have my own breed. I take a Saddleback sow and cross that with a large white pig. Then I cross with a Landrace so they get a long back. Then I use a Danish Duroc breed that gives lovely marbling to the meat.
‘My pork and marmalade sausages are really popular,’ he says. In his spare time, Steve is a judge of rare breed sheep at local shows. He is also an active member of the community in Milton Abbas. ‘I’m a parish councillor and my portfolio includes flood awareness and footpaths. I’ve also been involved with the local play-park, where a group of us fundraised for new facilities. We all need to be community players.’

Steve Gould with some of the vegetables he grows

A vocal campaigner
Even with such an apparently successful business model, Steve still struggles with one big factor.
‘A lack of customers. During Covid we had 600 people a day here, as everyone got out and about and enjoyed shopping locally. But that has really gone down as people have gone back to the supermarkets. It’s also the pressure that farmers are under with the price of feed and fuel. ‘I’ve known several local farming colleagues who are really affected psychologically by the stress.
‘I am most proud of my knowledge of what I grow and my expertise in helping people to eat healthily. I love helping people to enjoy food. A lady asked me recently how to cook a leg of pork – she wanted to stop eating ready meals. But all she had ever used was a microwave. I talked her through what she needed to do and she really enjoyed it.’
‘During Covid Steve really stepped up beyond all expectations to help people,’ Social media expert Andrea says: ‘What he has achieved is truly inspirational. He is a voice for farming and high quality produce.’

  • Find it: Steeptonbill Farm, Milton Abbas, DT11 0AT
    Mon to Sat 9am to 5pm
    Sundays 9am to 4pm
    Facebook: steeptonbillfarm

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