For many years, Stephen Harrison earned his crust working in manufacturing.

Now he’s baking breads of all types, shapes and sizes as the boss of Farnley Market in the village of Farnley Tyas.

The bakery and coffee shop at Field Lane only opened in September, but the business has already built up a loyal following both among villagers and people from across Huddersfield. while its wholesale customers include the Three Acres restaurant at Shelley and the Woodman Inn at Thunderbridge.

Stephen is also keen to spread the word about artisan bread – after being converted to the cause by reading about the realities of the regular white sliced loaf!

“I was working in the Ribble Valley and I was standing waiting for my sandwich in the village bakery,” he says. “There was a newspaper article in a frame on the wall talking about ‘real’ bread, which also referred to supermarket in-store bakeries and how bread was crammed full of chemicals.

“Five years ago, I set about reading and researching and developed a keen interest in bread-making.

“I read a book called Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley, who founded the Real Bread Campaign. The book is about why you should make your own bread and how commercial bread is full of emulsifiers, preservatives and enzymes, which shocked me.”

Stephen’s new-found passion for bread-making soon became a business opportunity – but represents a surprising departure for a man whose entire career had been involved in engineering.

Stephen, who was raised in Kirkheaton but now lives at Farnley Hey, left school at 16 and followed his father into engineering, He joined Reliance Gears as an apprentice and gained a degree in manufacturing systems at Brunel University.

Stephen left Reliance at the age of 30 to join Birkby’s Plastics at Liversedge, supplying components for the automotive industry.

He rose to the post of operations director and was part of the management buy-out of the business from its Japanese owners. The company grew from £20m to £40m turnover before a secondary MBO in 2008 when Stephen left the business.

Although running a bakery seems a far cry from his previous career, Stephen says his background in engineering helped when it came to setting up Farnley Market’s premises.

“When it comes to floor layout, production flow and efficiency, you view the product as secondary,” he says. “It’s all about inputs and outputs.”

Stephen presented his business plan to the directors of the 2,000-acre Farnley Estate, who are examining ways to open up more of their land to public access and provide attractions to ensure the estate’s long-term viability.

Said Stephen: “They liked the idea and about two weeks after looking around, we found this building in Field Lane, which had been used to store and repair farm vehicles. It was a large, empty shed with a mechanic’s pit and roller shutters.

“But it’s half a mile from where I live and I decided that if I was going to go with a ‘lifestyle’ business, it needed to be right on my doorstep.

“We came up with the name Farnley Market because there are no shops in Farnley Tyas, Stocksmoor or Thurstonland.

“If you want a pint of milk or some butter, you have to travel three miles in any direction to get to a shop.

“So along with the bread and cakes, we decided to put on a limited range of other things like milk and preserves.”

Members of the family have joined Stephen in getting the venture off the ground. including his sister Rachel Harrison, who makes the mouthwatering cakes on sale in the coffee shop.

Stephen says: “I started making bread at home and progressed from there. I went on a training course and that’s when I realised I could turn this into a business. I had only worked business-to-business before, but now I am working buiness-to-consumer.

“I wanted to see if this was a viable business proposition. I went on a course at Wellbeck Estate near Worksop and got an insight into the sector.

“I went through all the food safety and hygiene certificates and then I went on an advanced baking course.

“I knew how to make bread and I knew how to make bread in a commercial environment. That really joined the dots for me.”

Having decided to go ahead, Stephen sought out bakery equipment on eBay, but also built some of the kit himself.

Now Stephen starts work at 5am – 3am on Saturdays – and finishes at 5.30 or 6pm.

His days are made longer because everyone wants to talk to him! “People want to talk about bread-making,” he says. “It’s great to see the reaction on the faces of people who come in.”

As well as attracting customers from the village and beyond, Stephen is supplying bread to the Three Acres at Shelley and the Woodman Inn at Thunderbridge. He’s also developed beer bread in conjunction with breweries Mallinsons at Lockwod and Small World Brewery at Shelley.

Stephen Harrison, Farnley Market, Field Lane, Farnley Tyas, Huddersfield.
 

The Star at Folly Hall takes Farnley Market bread and another local pub is set to follow suit. “It’s the hunter-gatherer theory,” says Stephen. “The husband comes home to his wife with a loaf under his arm, which justifies the extra pint on the way from work!”

When he gets the chance, Stephen relaxes by riding his Irish draught horse Floyd. They have competed in showjumping classes at Honley Show and Emley Show as well as cross-country.

“I have been riding for about 12 years,” says Stephen. “It’s fantastic living here because there’s a seven-and-a-half mile trail around the Farnley estate.

“All the stresses of life just disappear when you are on horseback.”

Stephen is also a member of Woodsome Golf Club, but has had little time to improve his handicap with the business to run.

But he’s enjoying his new line of work. He says: “I am the owner of Farnley Market, but on my LinkedIn profile I’m ‘Enthusiast@Farnley Market’.

“I’m enthusiastic about teaching people about real bread, about the problems of buying bread that sticks to the roof of your mouth and what goes into it. People deserve to know what goes into their bread.

“I’m all for showing people how to make bread for themselves because that way they will have a real connection with us and spread the word.”

Role: Owner

Age: 49

Family: Married to Simone with stepsons Jake, 24, Charlie, 21 and William, 17

Holidays: We love ski-ing in Italy. I also went to Tuscany just before setting up the business

Car: Volkswagen Taureg, which we plan to “livery” up

First job: Delivering newspapers. I have always worked. I finished my last

paper round on a Sunday and started my engineering apprenticeship the next day

Best thing about the job? I get immense job satisfaction opening the oven to see what all my hard work has produced. When you take the bread out of the oven you can hear it crackle. it’s a delight for the senses

Worst thing about the job? Doing the accounts and being let down by big corporate providers. It took three months to get a postcode, get the phone line in and get a bank account!

Business tip: Think seriously about the consequences of decisions taken in haste

Work: Bakery and coffee shop

Site: Unit 3, Field Lane, Farnley Tyas

Phone: W01484 506165

Email: steve@farnleymarket.co.uk

Web: www.farnleymarket.co.uk