The family farm shop which is finding customers like to 'shop local'

At a time when panic buying has led millions of consumers to stockpile everything from food to cleaning products there are those who are actively discouraging the practice, talking sensibly with customers and offering advice.

The Hullah's who have diversified their business to make deliveries.

The Hullah family and all who are involved with Tancred Farm Shop, near Whixley and Green Hammerton, have been working to presuade customers not to take more than they need.

“We’ve been actively trying to convince customers not to take on too much that just goes in the freezer back home and is never seen again,” said Dean Hullah, whose family farm enterprise with wife Angela at Tancred Field Farm, supplies the shop with beef, pork, lamb and vegetables.

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“It’s a strange concept for us to be downselling instead of upselling, but we have every intention of being open and sorting people out with what they want.”

Normally, Dean would be combining his time in the shop and on the farm with regular appearances at farmers’ markets in Hovingham, Horsforth, Harrogate, Otley and York but he’s finding that as well as the local customers visiting the shop, he has also received custom from those who would have seen him manning his stall in those markets.

“We’ve been very busy and have been selling twice as much as normal. It is due to some people buying a little bit more, but also because our regular customers have been chatting with their friends, families and neighbours in the villages close by, who have experienced problems with the supermarkets.

“Our regulars come to us for our meat because they know where it has come from, in our case that’s mostly from here and other local farmers we deal with.

“They taste the beef and pork from our own farm and the lamb from our local farmers and they come back for more.

“We’ve already had customers I don’t recall seeing before coming back telling us our sausages, bacon, pork and beef is as good as they have ever had.

“I think a lot more people are realising it is nice to shop locally. We’ve been very busy and as our supply chain is a lot shorter than supermarkets, with most of our meat coming from the farm, we can take as much as we want, when we want, to our local abattoir.”

Coming to terms with the new normal of providing contactless shopping is something different for a farm shop that prides itself, like most, on its cheery service and advice on cooking quality as well as explaining the food provenance, but Angela and Dean have embraced it for those who feel they cannot come into their shop itself.

“We now offer contactless shopping,” says Dean. “You can ring and place an order and we will ring you back with the price, take your payment over the phone and you can collect it from a numbered box without even setting foot into the shop.”

Dean and Angela started Tancred Farm Shop nearly eight and a half years ago when their daughters, Mary and Catherine, and son, Lewis, now all aged 23, 22 and 19, were at school.

Today, Mary works behind the counter and in the coffee shop, which is temporarily closed.

Catherine is now a business partner with Dean’s friend, James, in The Carlton Inn at Carlton Husthwaite serving Tancred meat and vegetables; and Lewis is responsible for the day-to-day business on the farm while also studying at Askham Bryan College.

“My dad, Frank, is involved with the vegetable growing that includes courgettes, pumpkins, broccoli and tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse,” said Dean.

“And my mum, Jen, looks after the farm’s books.

“The farm runs to 150 acres and we rent a further 25.

“About a year ago we changed our pig enterprise from a breeding sow herd to B&B pigs grown for Ian Mosey.

“We have 1,600 that arrive as stores at 35 kilos and are taken through to bacon at 80 kilos deadweight. They are Large White Landrace with a bit of Duroc, Pietrain or Hampshire.”

Dean is a firm believer in the quality of Lincoln Red beef and sits on the marketing committee for the breed.

“Lincoln Red beef has excellent eating quality with just the right balance between continental lean beef and not as fatty as, say, some native breeds.

“We like our beef to have a bit more fat, as we think it eats better.

“We can always trim a bit off if the customer thinks there is too much, but we’d advise just the right amount so that the taste is spot on.

“Our pedigree herd of Lincoln Red breeding cattle sees us put 20-25 cows to the bull in spring.

“We’ve started this week with our bull called Wellington, who we bought from top breeder, John Kennedy of North Somercotes in Lincolnshire.

“Wellington is now into his second season and we have had 18 calves from 18 cows so far from his first year.

“I’ve done a spell on the Lincoln Red Cattle Society council and that means I know the other breeders to buy from if we need to supplement the herd alongside those we have bred.

“We’re presently running at butchering between three to four beasts a month.

“Lincoln Red beef is mostly grass fed and is at its best around 24 months and even though there is much bigger demand at the moment there appears to be enough in the supply chain not to go earlier than that.

“Ideally, we like to hang our beef for around three to four weeks.”

Lamb is another speciality and Dean said they have built a reputation for Hebridean lamb.

“We buy-in lambs to fatten and we’ve developed a following for this breed.

“It is as lean as any mainstream lamb meat and has a really deep crimson colour,” he said.

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