Tours through the Rhubarb Forcing Sheds run from January to March and can be booked for individuals and groups.
Although the whole visit takes place indoors, this is a working farm and warm outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear is recommended.
Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb
From an accidental discovery in 1817 rhubarb was made to grow in the depth of winter. The first forced rhubarb came from Yorkshire in 1877 from an area between Leeds Wakefield and Bradford. It eventually became known as the ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ which at one time produced around 75% of the worlds forced rhubarb.
Quite coincidentally certain factors came together enabling the region to produce massive root structures that held a huge energy store the plant would tap into for energy when it was called upon to grow, without the benefit of photosynthesis. Frost is necessary to release the energy store to the plant when forcing, without which it simply cannot grow correctly.
Located in a frost pocket at the side of the Pennies, gave the Yorkshire growers a clear advantage, their crop was on the markets long before any other growers. Eventually, elsewhere in this country forced rhubarb production ceased, as they simply could not compete with the quality, yields and earliness of crops that the Yorkshire growers achieved.
Eventually over 200 growers became established in the rhubarb triangle, hundreds of tons were produced weekly, as huge amounts were devoured both in this country and abroad. All was well for the growers, but after the Second World War rhubarb began to fall from favor, and they could not cover the high costs of production associated with this crop.
Many growers went bankrupt, others changed direction, sold up, or struggled on until retirement, with the result that today we have a mere 11 growers left.
Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb looked set to follow those other famous Yorkshire industries; liquorice root production at nearby Pontefract and the Yorkshire coal Industry.
The Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb industry was taking its last breaths, and Janet Oldroyd Hulme whose family have been growing this crop for 5 generations, was looking for a way to revitalise the industry.
An opportunity presented itself in 1996 when Janet was approached by Wakefield Council to take visitors around the forcing sheds as part of their program of regeneration for the area in promoting tourism. Janet was determined that the Rhubarb Tours as they became known would not simply be a look into a rhubarb shed, she researched the ancient history of rhubarb as a medicine and its use as a food in this country, compiling a 2 hour talk and tour that captivated the media and public alike.
Direct contact with the public was the perfect tool to raise awareness of her crop and its health benefits. Initially the visits were designed for groups, women’s guilds, retired professionals etc but interest spread with visitors increasing to over 2 thousand in a 6 week period, coming from as far as Canada, Japan, Peru, Iceland and Australia.
In 1998 in recognition to their contribution to tourism and economic regeneration within the Wakefield district the Mayor and the Leader of Wakefield Metropolitan Council, held a civic reception for Janet and her husband Neil.
1999 The ‘Rhubarb Tours’ was winner of Yorkshire Forward’s Tourism Award
2000 Rhubarb Tours was Runner up in British Tourism- England for Excellence Awards, category- marketing in Tourism.
2002 Rick Stein Food Hero of Great Britain award
2004 Janet began her campaign on behalf of all the remaining growers of Yorkshire forced rhubarb to secure Protected Food Name Status for this special crop which involved a long process in this country and in Brussels
2006 Regional Food Group for Yorkshire and Humber, Oldroyd Yorkshire Rhubarb won Best Yorkshire Product
2006 Yorkshire Life Magazine Yorkshire Product of the Year
2007 Wakefield Council launched the Wakefield Festival of Food Drink and Rhubarb to further develop the tourism potential of this historic local crop and put Wakefield firmly on the foodie map. By 2010 this event was attracting over 100,000 visitors to the city and involved local food producers, hotels, attractions and other tourism partners.
2007 Regional Food Group for Yorkshire and Humber Janet was awarded the first ever Yorkshire Champion Award, in recognition of almost single handed raising the profile of Yorkshire Rhubarb from that of humble school dinner status to that of super food and celebrity chef favourite
March 2007 Janet was invited to number 11 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament by MP Ed Balls in gratitude for judging a schools competition to design a web site to promote the Rhubarb Tours.
2009 Janet was invited to a press reception at number 10 Downing Street, where she was asked to respond to Minister Jim Fitzpatrick on behalf of all British Protected Food producers
March 2010 officially awarded by The Commission in Brussels,- Protected Designation of Origin the highest category in The Protected Food Names Scheme to Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb. The first fresh produce grown in British mainland soil to receive such status and putting it on a par with Champagne and Parma Ham. It took Janet Oldroyd Hulme with help and advice from RFG and DEFRA 6 years to obtain
2010 Chelsea Flower Show -Courtyard Gardens section
Welcome to Yorkshire’s (Yorkshire Tourism) Rhubarb and Custard Garden. The garden received a Silver Medal and was chosen as The Public’s Favorite (small garden)
Janet and Neil adapted their massive root structures to grow in small pots yet have sufficient crop at a specific time and allow the ‘custard’ (yellow sedum) to shine through giving an entrancing display which helped win this coveted medal.
November 2010 Janet has been invited by Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh to attend a Reception at Windsor Castle for her involvement in Rural Communities.
February 2011 Janet will appear in Michael Portillo’s BBC’s Great British Train Journeys.
Since the development of the Rhubarb Tours numerous celebrity chefs have visited the Oldroyd forcing sheds from Rick Stein, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, Phil Vickery, James Martin, and Marco Pierre White. In addition Rosemary Shrager was a guest chef at the 2010 Festival of Food Drink & Rhubarb and in 2011 Jean- Christophe Novelli is involved.
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|Notes||This is a working farm promoting Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb.
Please note BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL- pre-booked visits only.
DONT MISS OUT BOOK NOW AS SELLING FAST
E Oldroyd & Sons Farm, Carlton, WF3
Map reference: SE 335280 Lat: 53.74729 Long: -1.49349