Towards the end of the 1990’s the cereal price was collapsing, so MPF took the opportunity to go into the renewable energy business, planting 150 acres of src which now helps to feed the Drax power station. The hillsides, which were not suitable, became permanent pasture supporting first sheep and latterly ponies.
Planting began in Spring 2012. To keep cost down everything was done by hand and just in case it didn’t quite go to plan, Henry chose a field tucked away from sight – this proved to be the best thing he could of done as the views from the site are rather something special (something that led us along another path in the business – hosting marquee weddings). 2000 vines were initially planted. This was followed by another 1000 two years later. For the first three years everything that grew (including the grapes) had to be cut off and thrown away. This is to develop the rootstock and encourage the vines to take in the chalky minerals of the terrior. Following this in 2014 a small harvest was taken and the grapes where put into a blend with another vineyard based in Malton called ‘Rydale Vineyard’.
Challenging as it was, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. We were shortlisted for TWO national awards, BEST Farm Diversification by the Farmers Weekly, and for a Rural Oscar for Farming Enterprise by the Countryside Alliance. We hosted the film crew and guests on Escape to the Country, won a silver medal for our 2019 James View, featured in Vogue and were listed as one of the top vineyards to visit in the UK by Susie Atkins in the Times. In our bid to fly the flag for small Buisness’ up and down the country - we were also selected by Holly Tucker (founder of not on the High Street) to feature in their CampaignShopIndependant promotional video out of thousands that applied. A real privilege. We set up our ‘friends of the vineyard’ group - a bunch of people who simply wanted to get out and learn how to care for the vines and to top all of that off brought in a great harvest. The year was ended with record breaking wine sales, with an increase of over 200% on the previous year.
Market Place Farm has been in the Wilson family for over 70 years. The farm was bought in 1947 by Robert Wilson when the ‘Cave Castle’ estate was split up. At the time Robert bought the farm, it was farmed in a traditionally mixed way. The wolds hillsides, which make up nearly half of the acreage, were in permanent grass supporting a beef herd of about 40 animals.
In the 1950’s Robert sold off the beef and dairy herds, he then moved into intensive poultry, being one of the first farmers in the country to build battery cages for egg production. By the 1970’s the farm had about 20,000 laying hens and also reared all of their own replacement pullets. The farm also went into fattening pigs again, intensively housed in the old prisoner of war camp off Beverley road and a breeding herd in the Market Place farm yard.
The entire farm at that time was down to continuous barley. This was ground up and mixed with bought-in protein on the farm and fed to the livestock.
2017 saw our tonnage rise from around 2.5 tonne to over 6. Not only did this mean more lovely wine, but it also showed we were getting to know our vines pretty well. With the increase in grapes, we added two more wines to our collection. This included our first red wine ‘Three Cocked Hat’ and a dry white, which we called ‘Chalk Hill White’. Once again the wines proved so popular that by January in 2019 we were more or less sold out of all our still wines and eagerly awaited the arrival of the sparkling wines (which take around 18 months to process, rather than around 6 months for the still wines).
Record vineyard tours..
With the Tasting Room complete, 2019 got off to a flying start. As ever, it wasn’t with out its challenges. The week before our first event our building regulator lost their indemnity insurance. This meant we had to start from scratch with another company…not ideal and a rather stressful experience. Following that the company making all our furniture informed us NONE of it was ready…and wouldn’t be for another month (at least). Luckily, we’re from Yorkshire and we weren’t going to let these minor hurdles get in our way! Despite the ‘bumps’ in the road, we hosted a season of back to back weddings through the summer and a record number of vineyard tours. We were over whelmed by the response and were really proud listening to peoples feedback. The 2019 harvest was a complete contrast to 2018. After an up and down summer, the harvest was wet. Very wet! We brought in a smaller quantity of grapes than 2018, BUT the grapes that we did get were of brilliant quality. A nod to Henry and Tom’s farming experience.
The flat land to the east of South Cave grew potatoes, sugar beet and also grass to feed the dairy herd of about 25 cows. Originally the milk from these cows was sold bottled around South Cave and local villages.
The heavy clay land near Broomfleet Grew either grass for the cattle or cereals.
During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s MPF had contracts for growing brussel sprouts and later were one of the first farmers in the country to grow Calabrese (broccoli) for the frozen food market.
By the late 1980’s as the village was closing in on the farm, we took the opportunity to develop some of the land, this involved getting out of the livestock enterprises and concentrating on growing cereals for the wholesale market.
Henry stumbled across the idea of a vineyard whilst away visiting family in South Africa. He did some research on his return home and was delighted to find Stewart Smith, a vine expert located a few miles down the road in Malton. Stewart visited Henry’s proposed site and gave the thumbs up to his project. Soil samples where taken and a range of vine varieties were matched to the site. These included some familiar varieties such as chardonnay and Pinto Noir along with some more typically ‘English’ vartieties such as Rondo, Madeline Angevine and Solaris.
The first five years gave very little income from such a large investment (both in money and time) but all the hard work is starting to pay off. Our 2016 harvest proved to be our first real ‘wine maker’ and we now have our very own wine. Our ‘Barley Hill White’ and ‘Poppy Hill Rose’ were bottled earlier in 2017 and won their first award later in the year. We also received our first bottles of Sparkling wine ‘Henry’s Harvest’ and ‘Heathers Sparkle’. The names for the wine have all come from the farm and we have tried to keep the story of the wine central to our branding. So far, the wine has been really well received and even stared in a channel 4 programme ‘1 star to 5 star’ (a little claim to fame!).
With the success of the vineyard and our determination to build on a range of quality wines, we planted a further 6000 vines on a new site in Spring 2018 (with a very similar terroir, just less hidden from public view!). After taking advice from various vine experts, we added Pheonix to our collection along with some more of our already successful varieties such as Solaris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Luckily this time there was not a spade in sight thanks to Tom’s gismo for the back of the tractor which made planting much easier than in previous years. After the hottest summer on record the vines all took well to the new site and over on the older vines, grapes were in abundance. 2018 was a good year. From 6.5 tonnes in 2017, a rather brilliant 12.5 tonnes of delicious grapes were harvested. Towards the end of the year we were also successful in our application to build a brand new ‘Tasting Room’ that we hope will be completed in Spring 2019.
2020…. The year none of us will forget in a hurry! The year started for us as usual, winter pruning, planting vines and a sneaky visit to Glasgow to feature as guests on the BBC’s Ready Steady Cook (Thats normal right?). Our episode aired on the night of the first Covid-19 Prime Ministers Announcement. A day we won’t forget in a hurry. We soon realised, the year was not going to run as we planned. Weddings were postponed, events cancelled and like Buisnesses up and down the country, our whole year ahead was span on it’s head. After a few deep breaths, bit of home schooling and a few bottles of wine we started to make new plans for what the year was going to look like. The socially distanced picnics were introduced and our online sales went through the roof (thank you!) When we were allowed vineyard tours and Tasting Room events also started again, along with a handful of small and rather lovely COVID safe weddings. Alice and Tom ventured to Plumpton to learn how to make wine, a rather daunting experience - but an important one with work starting on our brand new winery! Our team also grew. Stuart joined us, and with his wealth of knowledge and 20 years experience a new lease of life was brought into the team. Our virtual events took off and although we could no longer welcome guests to join us for a tasting at the vineyard, people up and down the country joined us from their living room to sample our award winning Yorkshire wines.