FEATURED MEMBER 2016 - Franklins of Thorncote

Approaching 30 years as a goose producer

John Franklin began in farming as a free range egg producer in 1987, supplying local shops and restaurants and doing a village egg round in the Thorncote Green area of Bedfordshire.

Soon he expanded into production of Christmas geese and turkeys to meet the demand. John started with just 25 geese and is now rearing around 500 for retail sale mainly at Christmas. A flock of 40 laying geese produces eggs for the increasing demand during spring and summer.

As well as the Easter market and Christmas, there is a growing demand for fresh free range chickens and ducks all year round.

Two thirds of his 500 geese are sold through the farm shop, with another 100 going to local butchers and other farm shops. John has developed a flourishing trade in their farm shop for portions - goose breasts and legs are popular in the run-up to Christmas, with liver for customers who make their own pate.

Across the country goose eggs are becoming a favoured delicacy during spring and early summer, and John has started selling them too in the farm shop and at farmers' markets. He is looking to expand his laying flock to meet this growing demand.

John sets out his approach:
The poultry are all reared in the traditional way - free to roam the meadows and pastures at the farm in Thorncote Green during the day, and housed at night on beds of home-grown straw. They are fed on cereals and crops grown on our farm.

Our poultry is grown to maturity, then slaughtered on our farm. The birds are dry plucked, then finished by hand. They are hung for 10 days to improve the flavour and texture, before being processed by hand.

John Franklin John Franklin with his geese

As farmers’ markets started appearing around the county 20 years ago, we began selling at Leighton Buzzard and Ampthill and these were quickly joined by Bedford and St Neots. There are now more than a dozen farmers’ markets on our calendar.

Due to the increasing popularity of these local farmers’ markets we decided in 2003 to open the farm shop as a regular weekly base for people to come direct to source their meat and eggs, so they can see for themselves how our poultry is reared.

Our Franklins Farm Shop now sells free range chickens, ducks, eggs, rabbit, home produced beef, lamb and pork, and much more. From the feast of Michaelmas (September 29) to Christmas, free range geese, bronze and white turkeys are available, with locally shot venison, pheasant, partridge and hare also in season.

At Christmas our three-bird roast is very popular - consisting of a boned goose, stuffed with our free range chicken and pheasant breasts as well as a gluten-free apricot sausage meat.

We sell a huge range of sausages - from our very own recipe ‘Thorncote Banger’ and when in season mixed game, and also turkey and goose sausages. Our Farmhouse Sausage won 'Bedfordshire Best Sausage' in 2013, and the British Sausage Week Silver Award in 2014.

Our other enterprises include around 250 lambs a year, Gloucester Old Spots pigs crossed with Large Whites and beef cattle housed in the winter and living out in the meadows through the summer.

- John Franklin has played a prominent role in British Goose Producers for many years. His farm hosted the 2014 annual farm walk and he is currently chairman of this sector group of the British Poultry Federation

John Franklin The farm shop with an impressive range of products

John FranklinFlashback - Labour Environment Minister David Mililband visited John's farm

John Franklin John Franklin hosted the BGP annual farm walk in 2014