The Debbage family have been farming in Bergh Apton for over 80 years and the story begins right here at Green Pastures.
The tale starts with James’s Grandfather, Sam (left), who started his farming career in the 1920’s working for Charlie Carver when he farmed the Green Pastures Bergh Apton site. Sam was just a school boy in these days, carrying out general market gardening duties and he would have been part of a considerable work force. During the wars years Sam became Charlie’s foreman and he had at least 40 labourers, mainly women, helping to pick fruit.
Charlie Carver lived in Millers Cottage, Bergh Apton, which sits alongside our farm shop, with his family including his son, Colin Carver, who went on to farm the land for his entire career along with his son Andrew who now owns the Garden Shop in Loddon high street.
In 1946 Sam took up a fifteen acre council smallholding in Church Rd, Bergh Apton. It was vacated by the Tubby family and was one of six small holdings that made up the Street Farm estate. He grew fruit and vegetables and also kept pigs and poultry. By today’s standards the small holding was very small, yet Sam needed to employ 2 to 3 men and a handful of lady fruit pickers on a seasonal basis. Most of these ladies lived in the village and today we are delighted that some of their descendants are customers of Green Pastures.
In 1954 Sam purchased a further six acres in White Heath Road to expand his vegetable production. The following year he bought seven acres of orchard from Mr Botting at Crossways Fruit Farm, Bergh Apton, on the corner of Church Meadow Lane and Threadneedle Street and it was here that he built a bungalow in 1959 and made this his home with his wife Dorothy (nee Dye) and son Robert (Bob).
The orchard at Crossways Farm was gradually cleared to make way for vegetables which Sam grew until he died in 1976. His crops included mainly brassicas, parsnips and salad crops which were sold mostly through the Carvers who would take them to the Norwich wholesale market. He also grew some cutflowers, mainly Sweet Williams. In his later years he began selling some of his produce directly to the public in one of his sheds at weekends.
Bob worked alongside Sam until he was 24 years old, when he married Mary and together they took on a small holding of 36 acres in Bergh Apton Road, Alpington. This was originally called “The Gardens” but was later called “Garden Farm” as he felt the farm had outgrown its name. This was later extended by 50 acres when neighbouring farmers Francis Roper and William West retired from Street Farm, Bergh Apton.
Bob continued Sam’s tradition of growing brassicas but also grew larger scale arable crobs such as sugarbeet and barley. His vegetables were mainly sold via the Aldis family from Framingham Earl and the Bloomfields from Alpington. Both of these families are still involved today in growing vegetables.
In 1978 Bob and Mary opened a Farm Shop at Garden Farm. With the emergence of super markets at this time there was a decline in the number of green grocers and market stall holders to buy the produce from Market Gardeners so they felt that a farm shop would be the ideal avenue to sell the produce he was growing. Bob supplemented his crops with others on a smaller scale, such as potatoes, rootcrops and soft fruit.
In 1991 Bob purchased a further 50 acres at Church Farm Bergh Apton from Kevin Parfitt in order to grow more cereals and sugar beet. With this extra commitment Bob found it difficult to run the farm shop too and he unfortunately closed the shop in 1996.
In 2007 Bob sold his land at Church Farm to Christopher Kemp of Ashby Hall in order to lighten the load before he eventually retired. Now he mostly grows barley. He also assists James with the production of some vegetable and cut flower crops for the Green Pasture Farm Shop.
James is the son of Bob and Mary and he lives on what was once part of Sam and Dorothy’s Crossways Farm with Michelle and children Harry, Tommy and Beau. Although James has never been involved full time on the family farm, he took a very active role in helping Bob and growing his own produce for the farm shop when he was younger. Upon leaving school James trained with Notcutts Garden Centre and attended Burlingham and Hadlow Colleges to study horticulture. James remained with Notcutts for 23 years before returning back to his roots in 2009 to grow and sell plants back here in Bergh Apton.
Together, Bob and James have resumed growing some of the crops for which the Debbage name had been associated with for so many years, back on the land once farmed by Sam back in the 50’s. We hope you’ll enjoy dining on the fruits of our labour!