Research from leading rural insurer NFU Mutual shows that 40% of people plan to buy more from farm shops and local producers this Christmas.
The support follows a huge increase in the number of people using farm shops during the COVID-19 pandemic. NFU Mutual’s research reveals that one in four people have used farm shops or bought from local producers more in 2020.
Ian Maddever, Senior Agent at NFU Mutual Liskeard and St Austell, said: “Throughout the pandemic farm shops have provided a lifeline to local communities, sourcing vital supplies during shortages, delivering fresh produce to vulnerable people and helping to keep people’s spirits up with friendly service. “The rise of these rural retailers has been no mean feat. Many farm shops have worked round the clock transforming their business model to meet demand, such as introducing click and collect services. Staff have adapted from serving in farm shop cafes to processing and delivering online orders, and stores have redesigned their layouts to offer Covid-safe shopping experiences.”
According to new research from NFU Mutual, supporting smaller, local businesses was the biggest reason people chose to buy from farm retailers and small producers over the pandemic. Fresher, better-quality produce was also rated highly, followed by the environmental benefits of buying local food.
Ian Maddever added: “Promisingly, 40% of people say they will use farm shops and local producers more this Christmas and there are encouraging signs that these changes are here to stay. In fact, a recent survey of our customers has revealed that shopping locally is the top permanent change they plan to make after the pandemic is over. There’s no better way to thank our farm shops and farmers for their hard work this year than by supporting them – not only over the festive season but into 2021 and beyond.”
Research from the Farm Retail Association (FRA) carried out in July found that 92% of farm retailers reported a significant rise in new customers since the first lockdown in March. As part of its ongoing support for farmers diversifying their businesses, NFU Mutual held a webinar earlier this year with the FRA on setting up a farm shop enterprise.
Jenny Rose, Manager of the Farm Retail Association, said: “We are hugely encouraged by the latest NFU Mutual research. Much of this success story has been a result of farm shops being able to replenish shelves which has helped establish them as reliable food suppliers, alongside shops providing a relaxed but Covid-safe environment for shopping which consumers find less chaotic than other retail settings.”
There are now thousands of farm shops and farmers selling produce directly from the farm gate.
Colwith Farm Shop near Lanlivery in mid Cornwall, is just one of the many farm businesses helping to make this Christmas special. In early 2020 the shop consisted of a small, simple cabin with an honesty box, on the Dustow family run potato farm. Fast forward to now, and it’s a thriving local business rising to the challenges presented by the pandemic and adapting its services to meet demand.
Clare Dustow, whose husband Chris is the fifth generation of Dustows to farm at Colwith, says: “We saw a surge in customers as soon as the lockdown was announced in March. Farming potatoes is our core business and at one point there were literally hundreds of cars queuing around the car park just to buy a bag of potatoes. The shop became increasingly popular and by June we were able to expand it to a converted shipping container with a dedicated member of staff open 7 days a week. We sell our potatoes along with fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, breads and cakes, preserves, food cupboard essentials, meat, pasties, ice cream and alcohol. It’s not all singing and dancing but it is about good quality local produce – we are proud to support our farming friends and networks.
“We have ridden every storm this year and the most important thing for us has been to give our customers and the community what they want. People are a lot more appreciative of local produce and keen on supporting local businesses now, which is fantastic. We have introduced a click and collect service and have already taken 300 orders for our Christmas hampers. It’s all a learning curve and we have tried to weather every challenge that has come our way this year.”
Colwith Farm Shop has recently been announced as a finalist in the Rising Star category of the Farm Retail Awards 2021, by the Farm Retail Association. For more information about the farm shop, please visit colwithfarmshop.co.uk.