John Pile first took over Middle Farm in October 1960, and he and his family have run the business here ever since. The land at Middle Farm was notoriously difficult to farm, due to its very heavy clay soil. So Mr Pile and his wife Vivienne knew that immense hard work, determination and imagination would be needed to make the business viable.
However the business still struggled, until John and Vivienne had a revolutionary idea. They had eggs, milk, apples from the orchard, and Vivienne baked wonderful bread, cakes and jam – so why not set up a shop right here on the farm, selling produce made at Middle Farm and by other local producers?
And so Middle Farm Shop opened, one of the first farm shops in the country. At first the shop operated from the farm kitchen, but it soon became so popular and well-known that more space was needed. So some of the beautiful Victorian farm buildings were converted, and the shop moved to its present premises.
In more recent years, Mr Pile set up the cider business, collecting cider from small farms all over the west country to sell at Middle Farm. In the 1990s, part of the farm was opened up to the public and schools – another innovation which has since been followed by many other farms.
A restaurant was also opened, to showcase dishes cooked from local ingredients, and a Gift Shop was set up in the former cart lodge. A plant shop was added, and more recently Mr Pile has developed a new business selling animal feed and housing. John Pile is still at Middle Farm almost every day. Since 2002 he has held the tenancy jointly with his daughter Helen. Helen and her husband Rod have continued the family tradition of celebrating British food and farming with passion and innovation.
Old Apple Tree we wassail thee...
Helen and Rod have expanded the cider shop into the world-famous showcase for traditional cider and perry that is today, and they have also set up the fabulous Middle Farm Apple Festival, the annual Wassail, and many other events. The Wassail evening takes place every January. A Wassail is a winter celebration, traditionally held on Old Twelfth Night, to ensure that the orchard is fruitful in the coming months. At Middle Farm the Wassail is accompanied by music and dancing, mummers and Morris men, hot food, mulled cider and local ale.
The last 50 years have seen many highs and lows, but we have survived and even thrived, in spite of all the difficulties that farming has faced during that time. However, none of this would have been possible without their wonderful, dedicated and passionate staff and customers, who have made Middle Farm such a success over the last 50 years. Let us hope that it will continue for many long years to come.
Nestling at the foot of Firle Beacon on the South Downs in Sussex, Middle Farm is a 625 acre working family farm. There is something for every member of the family to enjoy.
Six generations of farming have given the Piles a unique insight into British food production. The highest standards of animal welfare and environmental care show in their milk and meat products. They demand those same high standards from everyone whose produce they stock. They aim to promote the excellence of British farming by presenting to their customers the finest food and drink from the British countryside, maintaining the best of all that is traditional, whilst welcoming innovation wherever they find it.
- • 10.45am
- Guinea Pig Feeding
- • 11.30pm
- Pig Feeding
- • 2pm
- Pat-a-Pet (weekends/school holidays only)
- • 3.30pm
- Milking time – Watch the cows being milked
There is no charge for entry to Middle Farm, apart from the Open Farm where tickets are £4.00 per head. There is no charge for children under 3. Season tickets also available at a cost £35 per person or child.
There is ample free parking, and the car park and farm shop buildings are all within easy walking distance of each other, with good access facilities for the elderly and disabled.
Coach parties, groups, birthday parties and school parties are welcome, but please book in advance to ensure that there is room for you.
Middle Farm cares passionately about the quality of produce in their farm shop and for the last forty years have selected only the finest meat, cheese, dressings, pickles & preserves, ice-cream, seasonal fruit and vegetables from like-minded small-scale producers. They source locally where possible, and offer a comprehensive range of organic produce.
Their traditional butcher specialises in additive-free meat and poultry, including their own home-produced beef, pork and lamb. They also make 20 different varieties of sausages. A wide range of cured bacon and hams and a selection of cooked meats is available. Try some venison, pheasant, or wild boar, and other game, available fresh in season. A butcher is always available to make sure that you get exactly the cut you require. Please place your order with the butcher, by phone or when you visit.
In their bakery they make a fantastic range of cakes, scones, fruit and savoury pies and complete meals for you to cook at home. They have fresh bread daily. They also produce a small range of frozen gluten–free cakes & meals.
Middle Farm stock 50 different British cheeses, including traditional varieties such as Quickes Farmhouse Cheddar, Cropwell Bishop Stilton and the more unusual Sussex Slipcote, Flower Marie.
With a log fire in winter, and sun-filled courtyard in summer, their Plough Monday restaurant serves delicious home-made, country recipes freshly cooked every day in the farm kitchens. Enjoy a reviving morning coffee, a lovely light lunch (there is always a vegetarian option) or a sumptuous Sussex cream tea with their famous scones. They provide smaller portions and healthy lunch boxes for smaller people.
Come and meet the friendly chickens, ducks, spotted pigs and donkeys. Don’t miss the playful rabbits and guinea pigs. There are timed events throughout the day, including the prize-winning pedigree Jersey cows being milked each afternoon.
Angora / Toggenburg goats
Middle Farm has an outdoor playground and a hay play barn, a nature trail around the farm and a picnic area. They can also cater for educational visits.
The National Collection of Cider & Perry is a unique celebration of our national fruit. Visitors can taste, compare and buy from a range of over 100 different draught ciders and perries (including our own Pookhill Cider). As well as a huge range of meads, country wines and fruit liqueurs, the Collection holds a carefully selected range of draught and bottled ales. They also stock English cider brandies, apple gin, apple vodka and apple eaux-de-vie. Fresh apple juice is pressed daily, and an apple-pressing service is offered throughout the late summer and autumn.
Middle Farm is situated on the main A27 Lewes to Eastbourne road, between the villages of Firle and Selmeston. The nearest stations are Glynde (2 miles) or Lewes (5 miles).
You can visit the Open Farm from 10am until 5pm with last admission at 4.30pm.
Middle Farm is open from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
Middle Farm regrets that they cannot welcome dogs (except assistance dogs) onto the Open Farm area.
Click here to visit Middle Farm’s beautiful website