Melbourne Market Gardeners

Melbourne once had over 150 Market Gardens. During 2017 & 2018 we have been working closely with Heaths of Melbourne, F. Jackson & Son and W. Sharp & Sons the three remaining Market Gardens. We have also interviewed a number of Melbourne residents with links to the old Market Gardens. We are pleased to share the photographs, memories and anecdotes which we have collected on this page.

Heaths of Melbourne

Since 1914, F.M. Heath and Sons have been growing fresh vegetables on the outskirts of Melbourne. The business of F.M Heath & Sons was originally founded by Marson Gregory in the “New York” area of Melbourne over a 100 years ago. Marson Gregory’s daughter Winfred “Winnie” married Frank M Heath, Brian Heaths grandfather, in 1928.

Frank E Heath has been at Woodhouse Farm since 1959, although the Victorian Farmhouse and Buildings are no longer attached to the land, Brian Heath is the third generation of the Heath Family at Woodhouses, he has taken over the market garden from his Father, Frank Heath, a popular member of the Melbourne Community who still lives at Woodhouses. Heaths hillside land was always known for the potatoes grown on their well-drained land.

Today, Heath’s is one of the three remaining market gardens in the area, maintaining the traditional growing methods and practices, and has supplied quality home-grown vegetables for over 100 years. Heath’s grow over 30 vegetable varieties and stock many more in their farm shop which is packed with seasonal, home-grown produce they are rightly proud of! From beetroot to brussel sprouts, cabbages to carrots, their fresh vegetables are harvested daily for the farm shop.

Heath’s are not just Market Gardeners. The farm shop stocks their own home-grown produce as well as a wide range of locally and British sourced food and drink. In addition, they have a small plant nursery on site specialising in allotment sundries, vegetable plants and summer and winter bedding. Heath’s are also known for their Pumpkin Patch and Christmas Trees. For local families taking a trip to Heath’s to choose their pumpkin and Christmas tree are key dates on their calendars.

To read more about Heaths of Melbourne follow this link

W. Sharp & Sons

W. Sharp & Sons was started in 1896 by William Sharp, he bought a plot of land, approximately 3 acres, and started growing vegetables and took a stall on Derby Wholesale Market, which was in the Market Place in Derby City Centre in those days.

William had two sons, Jack and Eddie, who both worked with him. In around 1915 the business became W. Sharp & Sons. In the 1920’s Sharps bought more land at Breach Lane and Melbourne Corner, the land they still work today.

Eddie’s son William, known as Bill joined the business from school in the early 1950’s and they moved business premises to Kings Newton Lane. By that time they were working 12 acres of land. Now in his 80’s Bill still works on the land and his sons run the business. Martin joined from school in 1979 at which stage Sharp’s farmed 13.5 acres. Bill’s the son, Colin joined in 1985 after working for another Market Gardener when he left School. By the late 1980’s Sharps were growing on 42 acres.

Like the other market gardeners Sharp’s have survived by reacting to changes in the market to successfully build the business in the latter part of the twentieth century and consolidate it in recent years. At present they have about 32 acres but do not plant it all, about 4 acres is let out for farm crops, and 6 acres are on fallow rotation.

For over a century Sharp’s had a stall on Derby Wholesale Market. It was run by Derby City Council until February 2017 at which point the Council closed the market at short notice to save money despite offers for a consortium of producers to buy it. Sharp’s now have a stand at a privately owned site alongside some other market gardeners who they had stood with for decades. Most of their produce is sold to Derbyshire businesses, supplying shops, market stalls, farm shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants and a small amount of wholesalers. Sharp’s deliver as far as Buxton and Cheadle and as near as Melbourne and Swarkestone, John Jackson of Swarkestone Nursery- whose family were another big Melbourne Market Gardener Samuel Jackson Growers- is proud to say that all of the vegetables in the Garden Centre Cafe and cut flowers are from Sharp’s!

In addition to their excellent produce Sharp’s have a reputation for their cut flowers, bedding plants and hanging baskets which they sell from the yard during the season and from a flower and plant stall on Long Eaton Market on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year.

F. Jackson & Son

F Jackson & Son grew from the Market Garden originally owned by Hugh Dolman. Hugh had a son, Les Dolman, who died in WW1 and a daughter who married Fred Jackson. Fred was Market Gardening Labourer who worked extremely hard and had big ambitions, he was determined to make a successful business for his wife and family. Fred’s brother, Joe Jackson, he had a Market Garden on The Common. Fred and Mary Jackson, Richard Jacksons grandparents, bought Hawthorn House in March 1912 and they moved in in May 1912 and repaid the loan to buy it by 1916.

Fred’s son Joe Jacson was born in 1937 and worked with his father until taking own the business when Fred retired. Fred’s daughter Alice also worked on the land until she married Alan Dunnicliffe. Fred Jackson’s grandson, Richard Jackson, joined his father Joe on the land and still runs the Market Garden at Hawthorn House, which having moved with the times continues to thrive.

In the second half of the twentieth century Jacksons had 30 acres, with some land cropped twice a year. During Richard’s lifetime there have been many changes but Richard still loves working on the land. He recalls someone advising him when he left school to “do what you enjoy” and over 30 years later Richard says all the hard work is worthwhile when you see the results over the summer. Seeing sees grow into exciting crops and getting feedback from customers makes it worthwhile. Richard currently uses 12 acres of his land for Market Gardening, some land is let for cereals and horses.

F. Jackson & Son used to sell main through wholesale markets, however to survive in an increasingly competitive market Richard has diversified and in addition to the wholesale markets, produce is sold direct to pubs, restaurants, cafes, children’s nurseries, and to the public.

Richard and his wife, Jane, now supply weekly Veg Boxes in Melbourne, Wilson, Breedon, Castle Donington and Chellaston. Jackson’s has stands at Farmer’s Markets most weekends, and at The Food Assembly in Derby, Matlock and Nottingham.

Thanks to Richard’s love of unusual vegetable, his regular customers are treated to a huge variety of produce, which are unlikely to be found on supermarket shelves.