The TN card is the Tunbridge Wells loyalty scheme that rewards shoppers for supporting local. This month its founder Jess Gibson chats to Samantha, the manager of Groombridge Farm Shop which has been championing local produce for over 25 years.
Samantha, thank you for joining the TN card. Why did you want to be part of the scheme?
We have relied on the support of local people from the beginning. It is therefore right that we should offer some reward for their loyalty, whilst at the same time encouraging their patronage of local, small businesses by becoming members.
The Farm Shop is an important community hub where local producers can showcase their products. How did the farm shop first come about?
When we first grew asparagus at New Park Farm in 2009, we were determined that it would first be available to local people. Once our stall was fully stocked, we then took our asparagus around the South East. Our little roadside stall then became a small farm shop and then was completely rebuilt in 2019, becoming the shop it is now. We have inspired many small and local businesses to supply us and in turn we have a community feel, looking after our local customers as well as inviting new ones.
You sell a vast array of seasonal produce grown right on the farm, what do you farm yourselves?
Asparagus, the first vegetable of an English season, remains our signature crop. Following asparagus of course are the quintessential English summer season crops, strawberries and raspberries. These now go from the end of May to the end of October.
We now grow lots of other crops too. Our fruit now includes cherries, plums, blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, damsons, greengages and rhubarb. Our vegetables include pumpkins, courgette, marrow and squash (spaghetti, gem and crown prince varieties).
These have their season and are then available in our farm shop. When the season finishes we move on to the next. There is no asparagus or strawberries in our shop at Christmas!
We do offer Christmas veg boxes, meat hampers and lots of other local goodies at that time though, as well as Christmas trees.
Why is provenance so important to you?
It is absolutely vital to us. In an uncertain world, we need to make sure that our growers and local manufacturers have a platform to sell their goods. We are fortunate to be in the middle of the Garden of England where a lot of fantastic fruit is grown. Climate change focuses the mind; we believe that provenance gives us a guarantee of freshness and flavour, without the wide scale use of harmful packaging. Throughout the shop we promote recycling and the reduction of food waste. All our strawberries are sold in compostable punnets; our hens are fed any food that is no longer saleable. We have minimum waste.
How many suppliers do you work with and what are your best sellers?
We have 56 local suppliers, some of which were here, some grew with us. We are fiercely proud of them and the work they put in to ensure we have the best they can offer. We also offer COOK’s range of ready meals, for those with busy lives.
What your best selling products?
Besides asparagus, I’d say probably our salted caramel brownie, baked for us by Karen at Baketastic in Speldhurst, cheese scones from Ally in Langton Green or carrot and coriander soup from Mags in Paddock Wood.
What would you say to those who say they can’t afford to support local?
We are totally focused on supporting local but we agree that with rising costs it can be difficult.. Our fruit and veg is very competitively priced, normally no more expensive than the supermarket; so cooking at home with local fruit and veg is a healthy option that does not cost the earth. Customers can buy items individually rather than in plastic wrapped bags. We are also part of the ‘Too Good To Go’ scheme where we supply ‘Magic Bags’ for a much reduced price.
How do you thank TN members for supporting local?
We currently give members a 10% discount on a shop over £30 from Monday to Thursday across our complete range, including our online shop. We want to reward customers for their support; they are supporting the local economy, ensuring that we do not lose these essential growers and manufacturers.
About Groombridge Farm Shop
Where: Groombridge Hill, Tunbridge Wels TN3 9LY
Visit for: Healthy, local fresh food. The best of Kent and British produce.
Member reward: 10% off purchases over £30 Mon-Thurs.