After the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic left many supermarket shelves bare, and with home delivery slots still hard to come by, many people are now opting for their local farm shop as a more relaxed, socially distant way of getting supplies.
A number of farm shops that have remained open with social distancing are reporting a marked increase in business. Fielding Cottage in Norfolk has seen takings go up 35 times since the start of the pandemic.
Founder Sam Steggles says customers are now asking more questions about where the food comes from, with a notable preference for British food. The shop’s Norfolk-sourced strawberries were a hit over those sourced from Spain.
The shop sources its produce as locally as possible, with all meat coming from the nearby Swannington Farm. A variety of produce is on offer at the shop, which is adapting to meet changes in demand – it is now selling fresh fish, fruit and veg, Norfolk cheeses, meat, salad, popcorn, bread, potatoes, jams and chutneys as well as toilet roll, compost and plants, to name a few.
In line with social distancing rules the shop allows a maximum of six people in at a time, and offers benches outdoors for people to enjoy a coffee after their shopping is complete.
Similarly, Charlotte Gurney, who runs White House Farm in Norfolk, says the farm shop and particularly the butchery have been “unbelievably busy” as they adapt to a new way of life.
The business quickly introduced an online system early in the pandemic, so that customers can fill out their shopping list online and staff will pick it and pack it ready for safe collection in the car park.
Charlotte says the repeat business has been “fantastic” and they are packing around 70-100 orders on Saturdays, and 30-50 mid-week. The butchery is at around double the workload mid-week and 80 per cent of customers are also opting for the takeaway coffee service.
Essington Farm in Wolverhampton is enjoying similar success with director Will Simkin telling Birmingham Live that they are seeing hundreds of new customers flocking to their business.
“It would be nice to retain these new customers,” he said. “It would be nice to be remembered in a couple of months’ time, or when it has all blown over, for who fed them during the coronavirus crisis.
“It wasn’t Tesco or Sainsbury’s. It was their local farm shop. We believe in the quality of our product, which always brings people back.”