Among the many reasons to pop by Yolk Farm in North Yorkshire is the chance to feed its three Kunekune pigs: Bangers, Mud and Violet. Visitors can also take an open-air yoga class with about 12 alpacas.

The farm’s animal inhabitants are just one way the business encourages young families to visit its farm shop, restaurant, play barn and dog-walking field, while owners Emma and Ben Mosey aim to educate consumers about where food comes from.

The couple had no retail experience when they bought the farm and its shop in 2017. Emma is a novelist and Ben previously worked as an exploration geologist, though he had a family background in farming.

“We realised there’s a big gap between people that have farming backgrounds and people like me that don’t, and that many people don’t have much of a connection to their food,” explains Emma. “We wanted to buy the business is to try and close that gap and teach people about real farming.”

Another realisation was the opportunity to attract young families to the shop. “We are about one minute from the A1 between Harrogate, Leeds and York, and are in a fairly affluent area that lots of people move to when they have young families.”

When the couple took the business on, the shop was targeted at older shoppers and carried an agricultural product range including hay, straw and animal feed, as well as eggs.

While eggs remain at the core of the business – there’s a clue in the name – many things have changed in the six years the Moseys have been in charge.


Source: Yolk Farm

The shop has almost doubled in size, a 60-cover restaurant has opened, and many animals have taken up residence. The Kunekune pigs are the most popular, but competing for attention are four pygmy goats and the alpacas. The farm also has a flock of 500 free-range hens, which is one of the few elements to have been reduced in size since the Moseys took over.

“When we moved to the farm, there were 6,000 hens and we supplied Morrisons supermarkets through a packer,” says Emma. “We quickly realised the supermarket contract didn’t make much money, so we reduced the size of our flock to 500 hens and now supply only ourselves and a very select range of local restaurants.”

It’s not just eggs, though. The farm shop sells produce grown on site, including spinach, beetroot, courgettes, rhubarb and runner beans.

“We’re growing things that it is easy to pick that day and put in the shop – things that are best when they are really fresh and that supermarkets struggle to keep in a good state,” Emma says.

Yolk Farm is located near a large Morrisons supermarket but, rather than considered a threat, it is seen as an advantage.

“We’re never going to compete with the supermarkets on price, but people will go to the big Morrisons and then pop into our shop. What we’ve realised about our shop and, I think about farm shops in general, is that we’re more of an experience than a day-to-day shop.

“We have a base of customers that shop with us every week, but we also get people that come to the restaurant and pop in and buy a jar of jam and a biscuit for their child.”


Source: Yolk Farm

Since taking over, the Moseys have brought many local producers on board, with 96% of the shop’s stock sourced from less that 30 miles away.

An on-site production kitchen produces a wide range of goods sold in the shop, including sausage rolls, savoury pastries, brownies, cakes, sides and meal accompaniments.

“Our production kitchen works independently from the main restaurant service kitchen and is an area for expansion because we’ve definitely seen growth in in terms of sales,” says Emma.


Source: Yolk Farm

When they took over the farm, the couple knew they wanted to open a café or restaurant, although it took two years’ planning to develop. Like many developments on the site, the restaurant branding and menu were developed with the aim of attracting a younger audience.

“The key thing for us was that early process of working out who we were trying to attract, and it was much easier once we knew who our target market was,” Emma adds.

The result was the Yolk Farm Kitchen that can seat 60 customers inside and 40 outside. Alongside traditional fare such as English breakfast are chicken pancakes comprising fried chicken with buttermilk pancakes, hot sauce hollandaise, bacon, fried egg & pickles.

After the two years’ planning, the restaurant doors were due to open on 1 April 2020. But then the first coronavirus lockdown was imposed on 23 March.

“We had just invested all of this money and everything was ready to go, and we had 15 to 20 members of staff ready to start working,” says Emma. “My gut feeling was to shut up shop and bury our heads in the sand, but my husband’s point of view was to stay open and do everything we could to survive and make it work.”

And so they did, with the restaurant staff redeployed to working on a grocery delivery service that was rapidly handling as many as 100 deliveries a day.

The restaurant eventually opened on 13 July, two weeks before the Eat Out To Help Out Scheme launched.

“We were very, very busy straight away. It was kind of a baptism of fire,” says Emma. “We learned a lot, and luckily we seemed to have pulled it off without a mass customer exodus from the business.”

Alongside the farm shop and restaurant is a concession operated by sustainable wool bedding supplier Floks.

“With costs going up, we were looking at other revenue streams and realised we had barns on the farm that we weren’t using. So we renovated one of those and now lease that, which has worked really well.”

Cafe Interior

Source: Yolk Farm

And another tie-up with an outside business is on the cards. Yolk Farm was recently granted planning permission to open a children’s nursery, and plans to sell an area of its land to a company that wants to open one on the farm.

“This means children can come and do exactly what we wanted people to do when we bought the business, which is learn about farming from a young age and be connected to the land,” Emma explains.

Yolk Farm also hosts events, using its restaurant space for art classes and offering yoga classes both indoors and outdoors with the alpacas. Families are also targeted with a sensory play class, yoga for toddlers and a ‘mummy and me’ fitness class.

The work put into transforming the business was recognised in the Farm Shop & Deli Retailer Awards this year. Yolk Farm was named Large Business for the North East.

Emma describes the win as a pivotal moment. It was also a recognition of the hard work put in by the Yolk Farm team. “They love it when we win something, and are just as excited as us, if not more.”

She adds that watching the team grow and develop has been a high point of opening the business. “Seeing them take autonomy in our business, but also in their own lives, is so rewarding. It’s really amazing to see people’s lives flourish and to see them take the business we built and grow it further.”