A swell of pride in British products can partly explain a “massive resurgence” in the popularity of farm shops, according to a Yorkshire retail boss.
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Political turmoil has stirred public sentiments in a way that is benefiting the farm retail sector, said Rob Copley, chairman of the Farm Retail Association.
Sales in some farm shops in the region have soared by 20 per cent over the past 12 months, with mounting environmental and health concerns, as well as a growing interest in “retail experiences”, also thought to be influencing an upturn, he said.
“Farm shops have been around for 40 years at least but they have definitely got stronger in the last 15 years because of access to government enterprise funding,” said Mr Copley, who owns Farmer Copleys farm shop in Pontefract.
“A lot have opened and the owner’s heart’s not been in it and they have closed but there is a massive resurgence in their popularity at the moment."
“A lot of that, I think, is down to growing patriotism due to Brexit, as well as people becoming more environmentally aware, interest in buying local and healthy food and wanting less plastic packaging.”
Farmer Copleys - named The Yorkshire Post's 2018 Farm Shop of the Year - is enticing shoppers too by creating a retail experience, he said. For example, the farm shop has a beehive where visitors can see honey being made that is then sold in the shop.
Unique North Yorkshire success story
Another farm shop - and café - benefiting from sentiments for quality, locally sourced food is Fodder at Harrogate’s Great Yorkshire Showground, winner of Rural Retailer of the Year in The Yorkshire Post's 2018 Rural Awards. It sells products from more than 350 local suppliers and has been open for 10 years this month.
The idea for Fodder was born out of the Foot and Mouth disease year of 2001. It was established by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) as a way to directly support farm incomes and is the only outlet of its kind in the UK to donate all of its profits to charity – the YAS.
Heather Parry, the shop’s managing director, said: “When we first opened Fodder back in 2009, we never imagined it would turn out to be the size and stature that it is today.
“Fodder stands for everything the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, as a farming charity, believes in - a passion for Yorkshire, its farmers and producers, whilst helping consumers to choose local.”
Farm shops can hugely benefit their farmer suppliers.
Miss Parry said: “For some, Fodder is their largest single retail customer and therefore our business is critical to their long-term sustainability; a responsibility that we take very seriously.”
Great future for farm shops
Some 300 UK farm shops and farmers’ markets are members of the Farm Retail Association, while farm directory website, Fabulous Farm Shops, lists more than 1,200 farm shops across England, including 89 in Yorkshire.
Somerset-based Claire Mortimer is one of the partners behind the website. It was launched in January last year to support farm shops, many of which have a limited online presence, and there are plans for the website to offer more in future and become a one-stop-shop for farm-based retailers by listing local food and drink suppliers and farm shop service providers.
Ms Mortimer, who has more than 30 years’ retail experience, believes farm shops have a greater future than most supermarket chains.
“I think many of the supermarkets, eventually, will die out,” she said. “Farm shops are only going to get bigger and stronger, and there will be more of them because people want fresh produce and they want to know where their food comes from.”
Fodder's 10th celebrations
To mark the 10th year of Fodder, its head chef Mehdi Boukemach and Yorkshire chef Steph Moon will host a celebration evening on June 20 - and a few tickets remain on sale for the event.
On the same day, customers can get 10 per cent off their shopping, while throughout June, prizes are on offer via social media competitions.