George was the first Bendall to make his home here. In 1929 as a young and ambitious man, George moved from his family farm in the nearby village of Rattlesden to become a tenant of Sayers Farm (as it was known then). He moved into the farmhouse and two years later, he married Gladys and they brought up three children on the farm; Gwen, Margaret and Granville.
There has been a Bendall farming these fields for close to a hundred years now. The piece of Suffolk that our farm stands upon is our family home and the land itself is in our blood. It’s a story we’re delighted to share with you below.
1929 The journey begins
1956 The second generation
Happy childhood days were had by the three children but it was Granville who took over his father’s mantle in 1956, and it was him that took the significant step of purchasing the farm outright in 1974. He continued to farm here with his wife Shona until the mid-1990s, raising six children along the way.
1986 Sowing the seeds
Out of those six children, it was Robert who decided he wanted to continue in the family trade and become a farmer. He met Sally at the local agricultural college where they were both studying in the early 1980s and they married a few years later. In 1986 they returned to the farm in Semer, and with no house to move into, they parked their caravan under a hollow oak on the pony paddock. That old tree gave our farm its name, and it still stands today.
1987 The next generation
Sally & Robert had the first of their three children. Tom was born the night of the famous 1987 Great Storm that saw the country battered by winds of up to 100 miles an hour. Hours before, the sun was shining and all was calm and Sally was serving customers from the farm cart.
Toms’ sisters Angharad and Shân arrived in the following years. All three children have been involved in all aspects of the business from playing spooky characters in the Holloween events to hosting birthday parties and school visits and being on hand to help with the harvest work.
1989 Breaking new ground
Hollow Trees Farm as we know it today began life as 10 acres of land which Robert and Sally borrowed from Granville. At the time it was a Bendall family tradition to sell small amounts of produce by the roadside, and so they, in turn, set up a small cart to sell a few potatoes and eggs to passers-by. This proved to be extremely popular, so to keep up with demand they increased the amount on sale and added meat and more vegetables to their original range. Soon they needed to replace the cart with a small wooden hut – the very first Hollow Trees farm shop!
1990 Connecting Food with Farming
As more and more people stopped by the small farm shop, lots asked if they could pop and see the animals.
To see the calves, piglets and lambs on a Suffolk Farm was something unique. Gradually a safe path was introduced for visitors to use and as this expanded to more areas of the field, so the famous Hollow Trees Farm Trail was created. The trail remained free for visitors until 2010 and became a much loved asset. It meant that visitors could not only meet the farm animals but it also gave us an opportunity to showcase our ‘field to fork’ journey, something that we are very proud of. Over a decade later, the Farm Trail has become a ‘Great Day Out’, full of farm activity and fun.
There is now a charge to enter and booking is essential.
1997 Where Holloween began
Faced with a bumper crop of pumpkins to sell, Robert decided to set up some life-size models of the Spice Girls (who were at the height of their popularity then) in the cattle shed. They had pumpkin heads but all the girl power glam too! With their music set on a loop, customers flocked to see and all the pumpkins sold in record time. So began the annual Holloween Festival that continues to be very popular today and sees thousands of visitors enjoy the quirky scenes and activities that are unique to Hollow Trees Farm during each October half term.
2001 Best in Britain
A year after the countryside closed down and agriculture was in crisis due to an epidemic of Foot & Mouth disease, the NFU (National Farmers Union) encouraged the public to return to the outdoors and support British agriculture by launching the ‘National Best Farm Shop’ award. Hollow Trees were nominated and won the regional award. It was at a Farm Retail conference in Weston Super Mare in November 2001 that Sally & Robert were delighted to then be crowned the overall winner and become the National Best Farm Shop.
The success was repeated in 2016 when Hollow Trees Farm won the same national award, now revamped as the National Best Farm Retailer competition.
2006 Growing demand
As the business grew so did the range of produce on offer and, as a necessity so did the size of the hut used to sell it. Finally, in 2006, Robert and Sally decided to build a permanent brick farm shop at Hollow Trees. At the same time, they constructed the Farm Café so they had somewhere that they could turn their lovely homegrown and local produce into delicious meals which people could enjoy on-site.
2012 Bringing a plan to fruition
For years Sally and Robert had dreamt of being able to offer their customers fresh meat that had been raised with a focus on high-quality welfare and of course, great taste. In 2012 they were able to turn it into a reality, with the opening of the Farm Butchery. Six years later, as a natural progression, they added the Farm Deli counter to give customers the option of buying their meat cooked and sliced.
2016 Ploughing a unique furrow
By this point Hollow Trees farm had grown far beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, so Robert and Sally wanted to showcase all that the farm now had to offer with a whole new brand. In the new logo, cheerful, hand-drawn icons are used to represent all of the different things on offer at Hollow Trees, such as the farm trail, café and shop. The big red welly boot sits at the centre of it all, to illustrate that the farm is still at the heart of everything that goes on at Hollow Trees.
A new fully responsive website, including an e-commerce section, was built and launched at the same time as the rebrand.
2021 Reaping rewards
Hollow Trees has come a long way from that cart by the roadside, and even further from how it was when George Bendall first laid eyes on this beautiful corner of Suffolk. A 140-acre farm employing close to 60 people, with a multi-award-winning shop, café and exciting family farm trail. However, despite all these changes, Hollow Trees has never lost touch with its roots. Now with the fourth generation of Bendall’s working here, community, heritage and authenticity are still the most important things to us, and we take great pride in the amount of produce that is grown and sold here. Our ongoing mission is to create unique opportunities that allow access to agriculture for all, through fantastic food, fun and adventure, education and employment.