Collaboration between farming, retail and hospitality is the driving force behind Forage Farm Shop & Kitchen.

The award-winning butchery, shop, restaurant and events business is located on Penllyn Estate in south Wales. It is run by members of the Homfray family, who have farmed the land there since 1846.

“Forage is part of the farm. There is daily collaboration between the farm staff and the Forage team,” says marketing director Katherine Homfray. “As such, there is an understanding and appreciation across the board of the value of good husbandry, high welfare, long-term land stewardship, and low food miles.”

Forage opened its doors in 2020. Planning consent for an on-site restaurant was sought in the 1980s, but concerns over poor access to the site prevented that happening. Permission for a new road to the estate was granted in 2018, meaning plans for a shop and restaurant could finally go ahead.

At this time, Tom Homfray, then a London lawyer, moved back to south Wales to take over the farm. His brother Matt, a vet in Bali, followed shortly afterwards. They now run Forage alongside farm manager Andrew Shackell.

When it came to designing Forage, the brief was to create a structure that blended into the landscape using sustainable materials. The front of the building was designed to resemble a hedgerow, while the restaurant offers views over the Forage lawn and Glamorgan’s Thaw valley.

Forage had been due to open in April 2020, but lockdown forced the business to temporarily pivot to selling boxes of produce online for collection and delivery. The outdoor space was used that summer to serve food, and the shop officially opened at the end of June.

When the shop first opened its doors, stock was sold from central tables. This has since been changed to shelving to enable the business to expand its range.

“The shop works in a circular route, and we have changed the layout of where our produce is sold from,” explains Katherine. “Customers now see a seasonal display or product of the month as they enter, and our own farm produce such as our eggs are given prominence.”

Butchery Counter

Source: Forage Farm Shop & Kitchen

The butchery is the “heartbeat” of the business, she adds. All its meat, except poultry, is produced on Penllyn Estate Farm. Lamb comes from a flock of New Zealand Romneys, beef from an Aberdeen Angus herd, and pork from 200 Welsh pigs. Butchery and production takes place on site. Prime cuts are displayed in dry-ageing cabinets, and butchers cure the bacon and gammon.

Eggs come from the farm’s free-range Lohmann Brown hens, rapeseed oil from a 1,000-acre arable operation, and honey from the estate apiary. The remainder of Forage’s goods is provided by around 180 suppliers, more than 80% of them Welsh. The goods are sourced through Welsh distributor Blas ar Fwyd, as well as directly from smaller parties.

“The brief is to source stock that is high quality and as local as possible but, where quality dictates, we do occasionally buy stock from across the border,” says Katherine. “Forage has always been committed to reducing food miles and selling the best Welsh produce both fresh and ambient.”

Indeed, sustainability is a key focus. So, buyers take into consideration factors such as the distance between supplier and Forage, and the packaging used. A 120kWh solar array was recently installed on the site.

“This, combined with regenerative farming policies and internal processes to reduce waste, is all geared to being environmentally sustainable,” says Katherine.

Penllyn Estate Produce

Source: Forage Farm Shop & Kitchen

The restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch and weekend dinners, operating under a farm-to-fork ethos. The site also boasts a children’s playground and an outdoor space used for events throughout the year, such as an open-air cinema, live music, Vale Food Trail activities and the popular Christmas Experience.

“Forage serves as a hub in the community supporting local business, Welsh produce and providing a space for people to gather,” Katherine says.

A change came in April 2022, when the business responded to demand from walkers and cyclists to launch the Forage Away grab-and-go service, offering the likes of pasta, salads and sandwiches.

Forage Away

Source: Forage Farm Shop & Kitchen

Such activity has led to the Forage team growing from 15 people to 45. The restaurant and marketing & events teams have expanded, and the business has also employed trainee butchers.

Still, alongside this success there have also been challenges.

“The pandemic and Brexit put pressure on the hospitality industry, and we have faced challenges maintaining a stable kitchen team,” says managing partner Tom Homfray. “However, this seems more settled now.”

Another issue has been balancing quality and affordability in the face of soaring costs. “Unfortunately, agriculture and hospitality are two industries that have suffered most acutely from inflationary pressure and this business is the perfect melting pot of both.”

Despite such challenges, the business is thriving, Tom insists. “We listen to our customers’ feedback, scrutinise our financial data and do all that we can, in this difficult trading environment, to provide our customers with the best possible experience whilst supporting as many Welsh food and drink suppliers as possible.”


Source: Forage Farm Shop & Kitchen

Katherine adds that Forage’s winning a Farm Shop & Deli Retailer Award last year makes it all the more satisfying and worthwhile. The business was recognised for its dedication to Welsh food and drink.

Looking to the future, Forage plans to work with suppliers to put on regular tastings in the shop, and continue to develop its Welsh product range and value-added butchery products.

Other areas of focus will be growing the events business and expanding the kitchen to service the restaurant more easily and supply food to the shop’s lawn during holidays and events.

“We are coming up to four years of trading,” notes Katherine. “With hard work and determination, the business is going from strength to strength.”

Forage Restaurant

Source: Forage Farm Shop & Kitchen