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About Us

Hi, Amanda here! I’d love to take a few minutes to tell you a bit about our business and how we started growing hops and flowers for decoration.

My family has been farming in Kent, where we live today at Chalkpit Farm, for 3 generations and much has changed across the agricultural landscape since my Grandfather started farming in 1954. Diversification was the order of the day by the time Mike and I left university and when my father made the decision to stop growing hops for beer in 1989 my mother wasn’t quite so keen to let go. She persuaded my father to keep one acre one hops in production so that she could continue the tradition of hanging hops in the farmhouse.

Mike and I met at Wye Agricultural College and it was in 1990 when I came back to the farm to help with harvest, that I saw an opportunity to sell hops for decoration at the farm gate. Mike joined me, and our first year was spent exploring the decorative flower market and our own business Essentially Hops was born! The rest, as they say, is history. Since our small beginnings when we we started Essentially Hops alongside my father's family farm. We have developed, grown, adapted and become the vibrant business we are today. I took on the tenancy of the family farm in 1996 and now we operate the whole farming enterprise.

Today, Mike focuses on the farming and growing side whilst I work with my team to grow the retail side of Essentially Hops.

Chalkpit Farm is a 415 acre predominantly arable farm (growing mainly wheat) which we manage as efficiently as we can, with the help of a machinery share with two neighbouring farms. Mike has his hands full running both the arable activities as well as keeping us stocked with hops and a wonderful array of fresh and dried flowers & grasses. We also grow and harvest for a small number of commercial partners and we are delighted that once again our lavender will be available in choice M&S stores this year.

25 years ago we started simply selling hops to local pubs, restaurants and passing traffic! Today, through our farm shop and our on-line store we have been able to reach a wider market and we have continued to evolve and expand essentiallyhops to reflect this. As growers and driers with a depth of experience, we are able to experiment with different flower crops and this has allowed us to create the broad range that we offer today. Providing both fresh and dried products delivers a wonderful variety of home decoration ideas throughout the year.

We are hugely proud of our fresh flowers and the fact that Essentially Hops is now recognized as a destination Florist - both for our every-day flowers and also the wonderful wedding arrangements that we create. The combination of hops and wild flowers makes for the perfect Country Wedding. Our farm shop, tucked away in an old stable building in our farmyard, has also expanded over the years. Today, as well as being home to our florist, it stocks an ever expanding range of essentiallyhops-branded products (candles, oils, etc.), dried flower arrangements, country gifts, pots & containers and everything you need to make your own arrangements. Our seasonal flower arranging demonstrations and talks have been hugely popular and we continue to promote traditional crafts and skills whenever we can.

As traditional growers we are heavily focused on the environment and creating a balance between modern farming methods and the protection of the wonderful wildlife that shares our land. We were delighted to support the M&S garden (Nature’s Hidden Heroes: Bees, Bugs and Butterflies) at 2014 Chelsea Flower Show, which promoted biodiversity and how we can all play our part to protect it.

Essentially Hops is a family business and will always remain that way. We are a small team that is passionate about what we do and we’d love you to come and visit us at Chalkpit Farm to see for your self. Over the past decade we have expanded our farmyard to create a rural shopping destination (Chalkpit Rural Shopping) where alongside the local vet you will find a coffee shop, a fine food delicatessen, a maternity and children’s shop, a picture framer & gallery and a pop-up Shepherd’s Hut shop - so come and make an afternoon of it!

We’re nestled in the center of the village of Bekesbourne which boasts a long and varied history including an association with Ian Fleming (Octopussy was written here), the Archbishop’s Palace (where the Book of Common Prayer was written), a beautiful Saxon church and much, much more.

Essentially Hops farm shop is open Monday to Saturday (except between Christmas Day & New Years Day) or why not come and see us at one of our many events.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

Amanda

Our staff

Here at Essentially Hops we have an amazing small team:

Mike is "The Boss" (Founder & Partner of Essentially Hops). He runs all the arable and horticultural operations on the farm, from the field to the barn. He liaises with the retail side of the business to ensure what he grows meets our customer requirements and he has full responsibility for fresh sales to wholesalers and retailers. He undertakes all the whole farm management, is a partner in a machinery share agreement with two neighbouring farms and is responsible for all arable sales.

Amanda is "The Other Boss" (Founder & Partner of Essentially Hops). Yes, that's me! I'm responsible for the administrative side of the whole business. I also oversee the day to day running of the shop, look after the shop team and try to keep up with the paperwork! My list of jobs seems permanently endless and most days are spent trying to keeping my in tray at bay. My aim is to make sure everyone is happy and has the resources they require to do a good job. This applies to my family life as well, trying to keep up with four boys (and Mike) ranging from the ages of 9 to 23 certainly keeps me on my toes!!

Hannah is one of our lovely part time florists. After a career change in 2015 she joined us for part time help and now juggles a young family and work. Conscientious and diligent, her warm personality is an asset to the team. She is a very talented florist and worth her weight in gold.

Jenny has been with us since 2016 and such an all-rounder, helping everyone whenever needed. She works part time, as she loves spending time in her garden at home, and is always reliable and helpful. She has the amazing ability to be able to turn her hand at everything and is a very talented lady in her own right.

Suzie is the newest member of the team. Her experience lies in customer service and shop display and although she had a limited amount of experience in floristry, she is showing great promise. A quick learner, she has fitted in to the team spirit extremely well and her warm, friendly manner is an asset to the team and our customers.

Kelly has been with us since 2016 and is in control of our online shop with James. She deals with pack and despatch and liaises between field and shop, making sure new products are available online and our warehouse is ship shape. She is particularly good at photography and helps us with our social media.

James joined the pack & despatch team summer 2017. With Kelly, he works outside in the warehouse, and organising any mail orders we receive. James is a great team worker, there is nothing he won't do to help and he has proved to be a very valuable asset to the team. James also does many of our flower deliveries locally.

Helen has been working part time at Essentially Hops for over 20 years, initially creating our database before helping with accounts 15 years ago. She can now cover most areas of retail side and has spent time helping in the shop, with stock control and on-line sales when needed. What a star! Added to that, she is my sister, which makes her even more special!!

Chris (the hop expert) has been retired for some years now, having worked for my father and grandfather for over 40 years. However, he just can't keep away. He pops in regularly and helps out in the hop gardens and cutting garden flowers whenever he can. He is a source of essential knowledge when it comes to all things hop growing and drying. He has and always will be, a part of the team.

Emma joined our team as a part-time florist in April 2018, bringing with her 26 years of experience, having worked as a florist at Claridge's hotel in London and running her own florist shop before she had children.

Henry is our springer spaniel - resident on the farm. If you visit, he is the welcome committee that wanders around the car park!

Tweed is our newest springer spaniel. He is still in training so isnt allowed to wander around like Henry, but given half a chance joins in the meet and greet when he can.

China is our lovely farm cat, last by no means least she wanders around as if she owns the place.

Our Shop Year

The Essentially Hops florist sits at the centre of our business. This gives you an idea of what we get up to throughout the year.

January - Hop plant sales continue along with cheerful home decoration to compensate for the gloomy winter months and emptiness after the end of Christmas. For us it’s a time to review Christmas and decide/place orders for next Christmas’ stock (yes would you believe it, I’m already thinking about next Christmas by the end of each January every year?!). January is also a time for planning the coming year, from product ranges to events and demonstrations.

February - Valentine’s Day. Roses and a time for loving and giving!! If we are going to get snow, this is the month it arrives. The yard looks lovely blanketed in the white stuff and it gives us a moment to enjoy the peace and tranquility of where we work. Doesn't last for long though, as the sun begins to shine, we see plenty of newly engaged couples planning weddings and people are busy planting hop plants.

March - Mothering Sunday and Easter preparations. All of a sudden, winter seems to be behind us and the florist is stocked full of Easter gifts, flowers and spring ideas. We have in the past, offered a Children’s Flower Arranging Class so children can make their own lasting dried flower gift for Mothering Sunday! A popular event that we plan to run every year, do sign up to our newsletter for up to date information on our courses and events. Not only that but these early months in the florist’s calendar are full of wedding consultation appointments, new brides-to-be thinking about their floral decoration for their weddings in the next twelve months. It is always exciting seeing brides planning their perfect wedding days, it always makes us feel good! Hop plant sales continue and if the weather is good, we start work on the fresh flower cutting garden, keeping on top of the weeds and planting new stock.

April - We’re dreaming of summer as the growing season is upon us! During April we’re coming to the end of our hop plant sales, but these are soon overtaken by the arrival of our gorgeous lavender plants that soon start whizzing out the door. The customers see our mature plants around the shop and farm, and are prompted into replanting gardens. The florists are busy reviewing our online designs, creating new ones and planning for the busy months ahead. Our wedding season is now in full swing. Of course, the weeds in the cutting garden are a priority to get rid of as they soon overtake the growth of the flowers, along with keeping the grass mown and the area looking pretty!

May / June - A quieter time for the florists, the weather is warm and the yard is humming with visitors and browsers looking for inspiration before coming back to see us later in the year. People are happiest outside enjoying the warmer weather and our rural shopping yard is perfect for a cup of coffee and to watch the world pass by. We are inundated with enquiries for casual summer work and we begin to gear up for promoting British flowers in the florist. The cutting garden needs constant attention and the hanging baskets appear, adding a dash of colour to the yard. Our fresh hop orders start flooding in for August delivery.

July - This is a month we encourage our mail order customers to preorder their fresh hops and hop plants. Visitors to the florist are keen to know when to come back for hop picking and we have plenty of new people visiting the area and coming to enjoy our Pick Your Own Sunflowers - which is a lovely therapeutic change from PYO soft fruit, and fun for the whole family!! Our fields are full of blooms, and the florist has plenty of our own home grown flowers for sale.

August - Hop picking starts at the end of the month. All hands on deck preparing for a busy hop harvest. Fresh hops are picked and sold at the shop every day from about 24th August and we’re all full steam ahead, trying to pack as much as we can into each day. The fresh hops are only available for about 3 weeks, so the florists are busy creating hop arrangements while they can Taking orders, making arrangements, hanging hops for local pubs and homes, selling hops at the shop and dispatching fresh hops all over the country. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. But my, we do all sleep well at the end of the day!</p>

September - Hop picking finishes mid september and we can all breath normally again!! Once the hop harvest is over, the freshly dried garland are available for sale. The cutting garden has the last of our flowers to cut, the Chinese lantern and hydrangea, and everything is gathered in for the year. No rest for the wicked though, Halloween and Christmas stock starts to arrive and we must get ready for the festive period.

October - Christmas arrives early as our shop is transformed into a winter wonderland of goodies, from tree decorations and Christmas dried arrangements, to garlands and wreaths to adorn your homes. The last of the Christmas stock arrives and it is all hands to the pump trying to fit everything in the shop. We also start planning the Xmas Flower Arranging Demonstrations and workshops; what will be this year’s Christmas colours, designs and trends.

November - Our Xmas Demonstration days are in a large marquee at the back of our shop during November. Visiting demonstrators bring new ideas and inspiration to everyone. This is a well supported, ticketed event which, last year supported a charity close to our hearts, the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Following these sessions of inspiration, we then run smaller, hands-on Workshops where each participant takes home their creation. We love Christmas at the shop. The buzz of happy customers cheers everyone up. It is work hard, play hard time!

December - The outside of the shop is packed full of Christmas trees, locally grown and fresh from the field. English mistletoe arrives, and we pick mountains of fresh evergreen foliage and holly. The yard is lit with hundreds of lights, our big central Christmas tree stands proud in the yard and the shop is a festive grotto full of decorative and gift ideas. Our florists are busy making up orders, serving customers and creating new design ideas. All our customers come in and exclaim at the wonderful natural scents of the season - hops, pine, cinnamon, orange to name a few. We take delivery of our winter selection of hop plant varieties, usually over 20 different types. We start the month inspiring customers to create their own Christmas decorations and end the month making orders up for collection on Christmas week. By December 15th we have sold out of most of our trees and the people run around trying to get those important last few bits and pieces to make their Christmas special. Charity events, Christmas Fairs, Carols and nativities are all packed into this month. We hold an open air carol singing in mid December, to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. By Christmas Eve, we are all exhausted and looking forward to the only week in the calendar year when EssentiallyHops closes its doors for a well earned rest until the New Year.

We would love to see you in person so drop into our shop at anytime. But if you can’t get to us in person then you can buy online throughout the year here on our website. Why not drop by for a browse and get some inspiration?