The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company – How it all started!

by Duckboy on December 26, 2010 · 0 comments

in General Information

The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company

The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company

Two years ago, during the freezing Christmas holiday of 2008, myself and a willing victim erected a 60ft x 22ft poly tunnel. We dug through the permafrost and boulders and finally after about a week’s solid work stood back with aching bones to admire our creation – in all its loose, floppy glory!

This was our first poly tunnel and although the build was not perfect, I was very excited.

We are regularly asked “why did you open a chilli farm?” and the honest answer is that we have no idea, but with the poly tunnel in place and the money on various gadgets spent we had no choice but to move forward. The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company was born!

It was a bit of a risk really, as our experience with growing chillies was zero. The tunnel was up before we had even germinated a single seed and although lots of research had been carried out the actual process of germination was alien to us.

It was with great relief therefore that one morning whilst at my main job, Louise – my wife and chilli sauce cook – rang me to say that the first green shoot was poking out of a jiffy pellet in the heated propagator and that the plants had started to grow.

From this point onwards we have been on an incredible life changing journey into the amazing and exciting world of chillies!

Poly Tunnels on the farm

Poly Tunnels on the farm

The first year saw us cultivating a number of varieties including, Super Chilli, Jalapeno, Cherry Bomb, Hungarian Hot Wax, Serrano and Orange Habanero.

Grown in organic conditions, the harvests were enormous, although it was not until the 2009 August Bank holiday weekend that we unleashed our products onto the general public.

At this stage the chilli farm was more of a hobby than anything else, satisfying my desire to be involved in some form of agriculture. After our first event however and having seen the interest from the customers, it occurred to us that there may actually be a business opportunity.

Initially we only offered 3 sauces – the compulsory Sweet Chilli Sauce, a mild sultana based product that we refer to as Fruity Chilli Sauce and our Hot Habanero Sauce which is sugar free and based on Carrots and Onion.

These products were also on test at our first Chilli Festival in mid September, where we attracted a few hundred visitors and on a lovely sunny day made friends with a number of the local based chilli heads who have since supported us wholeheartedly. We could not have imagined that a year on, our second chilli festival would attract over 2500 people!

So, as the first year progressed we started to get involved with local farmers markets, and when Louise was offered redundancy from her workplace of 20 years and with the chilli farm crying out for help in the kitchen, we took the plunge. She became our first full time employee.

We started our second year with the erection of 2 new tunnels. One – another 60ft x 22ft tunnel – was to house plants of the Chinense variety, whist the other new tunnel (a 10ft x 15ft mini tunnel) was used for germination purposes. The original and still very floppy tunnel was used for growing the Annums.

This second year we grew Jalapeno’s, Serrano’s, Super Chillies and Hungarian Hot Waxes in the Annum tunnel, and Orange and Red Habanero’s, Dorset Nagas, Pumpkin and Turtle Claw in the Chinense tunnel. Once again harvests were enormous and we were forced to purchase 3 super sized freezers to accommodate.

Upton Cheyney Chilli Festival

Upton Cheyney Chilli Festival

We continued to be regulars at the various farmers markets across Bristol and Bath, although the highlight of the year would have to be our second Chilli Festival, with over 2500 people attending the day and night event. With live music, a bar, chilli eating contest, Matt Simpson from Simpson Seeds doing a talk and tasting session and loads of fun for the kids it was a day that we will never forget.

A further highlight of 2010 was the last minute invitation to exhibit at West Dean. We were blown away by the level of interest in chillies and it is probably thanks to this event that we have the confidence to further expand as we head into our third growing season.

So, with the third growing season nearly upon us, the plans are to erect 2 new poly tunnels. One of these will be solely for the cultivation of Jalapeno’s. Jalapeno’s are without doubt our favourite chilli – firstly for turning into poppers and secondly for converting into Chipotles with our Bradley Smoker. There ain’t no better smell than smoking chillies!

This love of smoking chillies has also led us to plan for building a smoke house. This will be located alongside the chilli farm and will be of a decent size. The problem with the Bradley Smoker is that for commercial smoking, it is not really big enough.

We also plan to push our new range of chilli infused pork products, which under the working title ‘Hot Pigs’ includes a range of Chilli Sausages, Bacons, Hams, and Pork Pies. Manor Farm is predominantly a Organic Pork farm, so this fusion of the two products seems to fit hand in hand.

Furthermore, we will be opening a show tunnel that will be stocked with a variety of plants and information. Coupled with our existing ‘Chilli Walk’ this should make a visit to our farm a thoroughly informative trip for both the seasoned and curious chilli lover alike.

The chilli farm doors will be opening again in May, and fingers crossed, the year ahead will be full of hot, fruity, chilli fun!

Alex and Louise.
The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company.
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