23 March 2021, 12:45 PM
  • Never has community been more integral to shoppers’ lives. Jenny Rose, manager of the Farm Retail Association, shares a prime example of an independent doing it right
How one indie builds its community through collaboration

At the very heart of any farm retail business is one key ingredient: collaboration. Consumers enjoy visiting farm shops because of the array of quality local produce available, and farm shops are always looking for the most exciting local businesses to collaborate with to keep customers coming back for more.

The Farm, Stratford is a perfect example of how building strong collaborations can have a huge impact on customer loyalty and really aid the success of a developing business.

A relative newcomer to the industry, The Farm, Stratford was established in April 2019 and has been making an impressive impact ever since. The business won the Farm Retail Association’s Rising Star Award 2020 and it is currently a 2021 finalist in the Small Farm Shop of the Year category. Charlie Wells and her team focus on unique collaborations that support small businesses and make their customers feel part of something of local importance. An emphasis on ‘team’ has also been crucial to the business’s swift growth.

Charlie Wells, The Farm, Stratford

Collaborations with local businesses are incredibly important to us, and have been especially so through the past year. The partnerships we have built are what make us stand out from others. We’re proud of the unique relationships we’ve nurtured, which not only support small businesses but also help to build a sense of community for our customers.

Our approach to working with local businesses has been a huge part of our vision since The Farm was established. We’ve always made it a priority to stock local suppliers where possible, as I think there’s something really beautiful about small, independent, local enterprises coming together and supporting one another. It creates a united network of people working together to build on one another’s successes, and from a business perspective it’s also a great way of developing your brand. The businesses we choose to collaborate with have their own customer following, as do we, so the fact that we can share our partnership with both audiences is a bonus.

For us, it’s so important that our customers see local products on our shelves. We pride ourselves on supporting ‘local’ so we feel it’s our duty to motivate customers to do the same. It’s sometimes difficult for customers to shop for individual produce directly as you can end up buying from 10 different businesses – that’s why we’re here! We do all the research and bring the best of local produce under one roof, so our customers can shop with us in confidence. I think this is why we have such a loyal customer base. They know we are always striving to support others, as well as developing ourselves.

Collaborating has been key for us from the very beginning. It’s been crucial to us to source partners that we not only get on with personally, but who also share our passion and ethos. Our in-house butcher, Martin from Crombies Artisan Butchers, brings with him 32 years of experience which really is invaluable. His skills are renowned locally and customers come to see him specifically. Our leading beer supplier Purity Brewing is based on a local working farm, and their brewery practices are designed to be environmentally friendly, which ties in perfectly with our culture.

Our wine suppliers are Welcombe Hills Vineyard in Warwickshire (a family run business led by husband and wife team Jonathan and Nichola) and Vin Neuf, a local independent wine merchant. The Slabb, our chocolatier, offers artisan products that our customers won’t find elsewhere, whilst the apples we sell come from a neighbouring farm.

Think local
As well as focusing on local products and services, we also support local initiatives where we can. We feel we have an important part to play in giving back to the local community. We’re really proud to work with Flourish at The Farm, an outdoor education provider focussing on children with special educational needs who find it difficult to thrive in a conventional classroom setting.

With all of our collaborators, we call ourselves ‘The Farm Family’ because we support each other like families do! Collaborating with small, independent businesses just feels right.

Shopping locally makes such a difference to your local economy; if you buy local, your money stays local. Typically, for every £1 spent with a small business, 63p goes back into your local economy compared to 40p with a larger business. It’s an amazing feeling watching small, independents grow, and the fact that we can watch this happen under one roof is really special.

Providing an experience
A sense of ‘experience’ is very much at the heart of The Farm, and we’re all about making our customers feel fantastic. As such, we work with Kate Wells from The Loft Studio, a contemporary Yoga space in Stratford Upon Avon. Kate delivers classes here at the Farm, which are really well received and we’re pleased to provide Kate with an outdoor setting for her classes.

We’re very excited to soon be launching an on-site hair salon, located in an airstream – or should I say (H)airstream! Our collaboration is with ‘Nash White’ a Stratford and Warwickshire-based salon. The team at Nash White have a similar vision to The Farm and we already share the same customers. We’re super excited and feel like this will take us to the next level – we’re not your average farm shop, as we’ve always said.

To read more from Artisan Essentials, download a free copy here.

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