Priory Farm has now been going for 65 years with the Shinner family at the helm. Our roots as a family business are humble and grew from the produce that our local farmland had to offer.
Since we threw open the farm gates in 1957, we have expanded from just a simple pick-your-own and pig farm, to an award-winning Farm Shop, family Nature Trail, events and wedding venue, Gift Barn and fishing lakes.
The business continues to grow and develop; some processes may have changed with the times but the vision is still the same here at Priory Farm; to provide outstanding customer service and to inspire our customers by creating exceptional experiences.
We’re always looking to improve and innovate so our most recent project has been the redesign and fitting of our brand new Butchery and Deli, led by eldest son Jeremy Shinner and completed in 2021.
John and Wendy Shinner bought Priory Farm in September 1957.
They ran the 140 acres as a mixed farm with a flock of 100 sheep, cereals, broiler chickens and a very small herd of pigs. By the end of the 1960s, it was becoming clear that economies of scale were becoming necessary in order to remain profitable.
In 1969 some land was sold and investment made in the pig enterprise. At the same time, the first acre of strawberries was planted for pick-your-own and Priory Farm had, unwittingly, become a pioneer in the concept of diversification to improve the livelihood of small farmers. Gradually the cereals, the sheep and the chickens were all phased out.
The 1970s was a period of great change and expansion.
The pedigree Landrace pig herd was becoming more and more important to the business. New buildings were erected and a new company was formed with other pig farmers in the south-east to market improved stock. The pick your own fruit enterprise was also experiencing exciting times, the demand by the public to get out into the country to pick their own fruit seemed insatiable and each year saw the introduction of new crops and increasing acreage of both fruit and vegetables here on the farm.
The 1980s was a period of steady growth in the pick-your-own and pedigree pig head enterprises.
The plant centre and the farm shop had their beginnings during this decade. Francis Hallowes was given the responsibility to develop the plant centre, which started in 1983 with a small polythene tunnel selling bedding plants. Nic Shinner, John Shinner’s son, joined in the business at this time and took over the pick your own and the estate. In 1989, John’s other son Anthony also joined the family business to manage the fledgeling Farm Shop.
The 1990s on Priory farm saw even greater changes to those that had occurred in the previous decade.
The farm shop, after years of planning and building, opened in April 1992 and the last load of pigs left the farm just prior to this. It was a period of gradual decline in the demand for pick your own crops, which made for difficult times, especially without income from the pig herd. However, despite the setback, the farm shop gradually became profitable and the plant centre was expanding fast.
To explore more of our history here at Priory Farm, you can read Nic Shinner and John Shinner’s story.