Talking Shop with The Farm, Stratford: “We’re not your average farm shop”

10 September 2021, 08:53 AM
  • For Charlie Wells, director of The Farm, Stratford, being thoroughly unique is a vital part of the plan
Talking Shop with The Farm, Stratford: “We’re not your average farm shop”

The Farm Stratford, which opened in 2019, is a family-run business which is passionate about providing a unique food and wellbeing destination that showcases local artisan produce and promotes ethical, wholesome and sustainable food.

Our home, the Fruit Farm in Snitterfield, was once home to hundreds of apple, pear, plum and cherry trees, which produced for the likes of Waitrose and Mr Kipling. The Farm was popular with South Warwickshire residents for its ‘pick your own’ fruit and strawberries, but in recent years The Farm struggled to survive and became derelict.

We took on the redevelopment in 2017, and with a shared vision and a lot of hard work, we have created what we believe to be a truly stunning environment for all to enjoy. The Farm is a collective of artisan food producers, a whole food restaurant, farm shop and delicatessen. We support local brands and champion independent suppliers from our own and neighbouring counties. Alongside this we offer educational workshops, cookery school classes and demonstrations with the intention to re-discover skills and traditions, from foraging courses to baking your own sourdough.

Local artisans produce on-site in micro-kitchens that are visible to the public so customers can engage with the producers to find out more about their products.

Who’s in the farm shop team?

The Farm family is made up of many different wonderful people! From our shop managers Tom and Kay, Lewis the head chef of Nourish, Rose and Alice our coffee queens, fruit and vegetable buyer India, Karen in accounts, Kitty our homeware buyer and all around creative genius, Marek and Mickel our maintenance boys, Sophie our office admin, Tony our stock controller, Martin Crombie our butcher, James from Lordswood Farm, Michael from Fresh Retail our consultants… the list goes on. These individuals make up The Farm and our community.

What sets the business apart from other independent retailers?

We’ve always said “we’re not your average farm shop”; everything from the products we sell, the food we serve in Nourish our restaurant, the shop layout, the props we use for displays, our open plan atmosphere, the events we host and the wellbeing programs we promote, make us that little bit different.

During lockdown we introduced ‘Picnic on The Lawn’, a Covid-safe picnic event where we sprayed 2m x 2m circles on the front lawn so customers could reserve a circle for 90 minutes and ‘bubble up’ safely. We provided picnic food from the shop and deli, and converted a Shepherds Hut into ‘Nourish Streetfood’, serving high-end takeaway food. 

We also host a Monthly Makers Market where we welcome independent artisans from around Warwickshire to sell and promote their products/skills. Our favourite event right now is our ‘PYO Sunshine Field’ where you can pick your own sunflowers; it’s been really popular and the atmosphere has been amazing!

What are you most proud of at The Farm, Stratford?

Surviving a global pandemic! I know it’s probably the most obvious one, but I’m so proud of the team and their hard work. It hasn’t been easy, in fact we’re going through the hardest part now what with staff shortages and a lack of job applicants. The Farm Stratford remained open throughout the pandemic, and the team put themselves at risk everyday to ensure customers could shop good-quality produce in a safe and pleasant environment.

We’ve also worked with some incredible collaborators and featured in some amazing press which, seeing as we’re only two years old, we’re very proud of! The Times ‘Top 30 Farm Shops in Britain’, The Guardian ‘Skip the Services 20 stopovers off the UK motorway & A Roads’, Great British Menu filmed their Christmas Key Worker Banquet Special with us, we’ve been featured in Condé Nast Traveller, and we’ve also won some fantastic awards which still make me emotional to think about them – including Rising Star FARMA 2019, Best Small Farm Shop FARMA 2020, Best Restaurant in Farm Shop FARMA 2020, Regional Winners of The Farm Shop & Deli 2021 and Muddy Stilettos Best Farm Shop 2021.

What challenges have you experienced recently, and how have you overcome them?

During the pandemic we suffered flash flooding where the whole of the site was under water. The team spent several hours mopping up water and putting sandbags around every doorway. We closed for the following day for an almighty clear up, and within 24 hours the shop was back open as normal. It ended up being one of the best team building exercises we’ve done!

I would also say that the recent ‘ping-demic’ has been a challenge. Trying to staff whilst people are having to isolate has been tough on the team. There isn’t a day where we’re not short staffed. The only comforting thing is customers recognise this is a national issue so are patient with us.

What’s next for The Farm, Stratford?

We’re always trying to think of innovative ideas that are on-trend and keep The Farm fresh. We’re planning to focus on the wellbeing side of The Farm more, and expand our event calendar. We have a beautiful, unique space which we want to share with many more people. Watch this space.

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