Why farm shops are evolving to add that bit extra

14 April 2023, 08:51 AM
  • The modern consumer is more demanding than ever. John Bensalhia find out why farm shops are diversifying in 2023
Why farm shops are evolving to add that bit extra

Whether it’s the hidden bonus tracks at the end of an album or the special ‘making-of’ featurettes on a Blu-ray or DVD, the modern world continues to provide just that little bit extra.

Today’s farm shops are no exception. Once upon a time, the average farm shop provided exactly what it said on the tin. But more modern businesses are building on and adding to their success with extra facilities for customers to enjoy.

Diversifying into new sectors can be a financial boon. Having re-launched its farm shop with a new cafe in 2021, Hirsts’ reported an increased turnover in July 2022 from around 5pc to 33pc. Because Hirsts’ is located within walking distance of both countryside and coast, opening a cafe makes it an ideal stop for families to eat.

Meanwhile, Hartley Farm is set to increase its restaurant premises as part of an expansion project set to commence later this year. Hartley Farm, which also has its own farm shop, says that the new restaurant will have a projected revenue increase by £600,000 to £2.4 million.

Eating facilities are only part of the picture. Farm shops are diversifying into a wide range of new ventures. Teals Farm Shop is one example, offering customers what co-founder Ash Sinfield describes as “unexpected facilities”.

“We have great disabled access and a toilet, a dog jog where customers can walk their dogs, in the summer a cricket pitch that families can use free of charge, a cider orchard to enjoy, sit under the trees and picnic in, free WIFI and the Arc that can be used as a workspace for a couple of hours also FOC plus all the local products in the food market, restaurant, food to go and gift areas.”

Erin Jeffery of Farrington’s explains that, “We pride ourselves on being a destination, not just a farm shop!” On the site, Farrington’s has a farm shop, café, fish & chip shop and play barn (with a café within it).

“In addition to this we have a number of units we rent out to local businesses meaning there is plenty more for customers to visit. Units include a gift shop, book shop, hairdresser, treatment and beauty salon, kitchen shop and gluten-free bakery.”

Farm shops have various reasons for introducing extra facilities. Pamela Lilburn, partner, Brookvale, says that it gives customers of its farm shop the opportunity to have a look around its working farm. “We believe that it’s important for our customers to see where their food comes from. Customers can get the whole picture and see how well our animals are cared for. Animal welfare is our number one priority.”

Originally, Brookvale started out selling its own fresh, gently pasteurised milk to the public, quickly growing into a farm shop, which showcases top-quality local produce from Northern Ireland. “Our milk is sold in reusable glass bottles, as we encourage reusability and sustainability to customers,” says Pamela. “Today, we have a small Play Park with picnic tables where customers’ can enjoy their milkshakes and other farm shop purchases.”

Ash Sinfield explains that the reason for providing bonus facilities is twofold. “We wanted customers to relax and enjoy the environment when they are with us, We also wanted it to be fun and memorable.”

Ash’s mention of disabled access reinforces the point that one of the most important aspects of any farm shop facility is accessibility for everyone. The Hollies Farm Shop has covered every base for disabled and elderly visitors. Ramps can be used for wheelchair access into the farm shop itself as well as the gift barn and the takeaway. In the case of its forest lodges for those who choose to stay, a ramp can be provided on request. Disabled toilets and car parking spaces are also provided at Hollies.

Other disability considerations have been taken on board. Coldharbour Farm Shop caters for visitors who have vision difficulties. Its disabled toilet facility features colour coded accessories that can help partially sighted customers. Coldharbour also includes disabled parking bays and ramp/spacious doorway access to the shop’s Field Kitchen, making it suitable for wheelchair-bound, disabled and elderly visitors.

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