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Festive shoppers flock to farm shops

Christmas shoppers seeking comfort and joy flock to farm shops

  • NFU Mutual research reveals nine out of ten value ‘friendly service’ when it comes to shopping at farm shops and other independent retailers
  • 80% of those planning to use farm shops this Christmas want to support local businesses and the economy
  • 70% believe farm shops offer fresher, better quality produce and 66% are drawn by more sustainable foods with lower food miles.

Festive shoppers are flocking to farm shops for their Christmas goodies, research from leading rural insurer NFU Mutual reveals.

Starved of friendly contact after months of pandemic nine out of ten shoppers say friendly service is the main reason they’ll use farm shops and local retailers this Christmas.

Seventy percent of people surveyed believe farm shops offer fresher, better quality produce.   

In the true spirit of Christmas, eight out of 10 people who plan to use farm shops are doing so to support local businesses and the economy.

Environmental concerns are another reason many shoppers plan to buy local farm produce. Two thirds of the people surveyed said they prefer farm shops because they provide food from sustainable sources with lower ‘food miles’.

Neil Brand, Agent at NFU Mutual in Clifton & Wrington, said: “Christmas is all about spreading good cheer and farm shops provide that in abundance with friendly service, great locally-grown produce and a relaxed atmosphere.

“It’s great to see so many people planning to use farm shops this Christmas after the huge amount of work they put in to stay open and rose to the challenge of massive demand through the pandemic lockdowns.

“Whether farm shops delivered fresh produce to a vulnerable customer, sourced local flour for home bakers, or were there for a friendly chat over the counter at a lonely time – these rural retailers transformed their businesses and came into their own over Coronavirus.”

As part of its ongoing support for farmers NFU Mutual works in partnership with the Farm Retail Association (FRA) sharing advice and supporting events to help those setting up a farm shop enterprise.

Rob Copley Chairman of the Farm Retail Association, said: “It’s terrific to hear there’s a real sense of loyalty from the public for their local farm retailer which will continue through the festive season. 

“Farm retailers are at the heart of the community and they came into their own during Covid, adapting their space quickly to keep their staff and customers safe. People felt safer, they built up a trust and lockdowns lasted for such a long period that it has changed shopping habits that will be here to stay.

“Anecdotally we hear that numbers are up across the board with more customers than ever preferring to shop at their local farm retailer and it’s heartening to hear these statistics confirm this. We look forward to welcoming the public through our doors for their Christmas shopping over what will be our busiest period and we can’t thank them enough for their continued support.”

New Manor Farm Shop in Bristol is just one of the many shops helping to make this Christmas special. 

New Manor Farm Shop case study

To say that New Manor Farm and its popular farm shop is a family run business, would be something of an understatement. It’s located just south of Bristol and the same family has been farming its fields for 500 years. 

The estate includes a number of acres spread across five units, 1,000 acres of which are arable, along with beef, pigs, sheep, chickens and three organic dairy herds milking 800 cows, which are milked in new state-of-the-art milking parlours. 

Thomas Gay is the 26th generation farmer at the helm. He says the farm shop is busier than ever this year in the lead up to Christmas.  

Thomas says: “We have definitely seen a shift in people’s views on buying local since the pandemic and it’s become much more important to them to know where their food has come from.  

“There are so many benefits to buying local and we hear this from our customers all the time. People who buy from us know where their meat has come from and where their fruit and vegetables have been grown. We have been in this area for so long now that everyone who shops here knows our ethos and standards and how important they are to us. 

“The reduction in food miles is one of the biggest benefits we see to buying local - we are passionate about rearing and selling high quality organic and free range produce. Ultimately, we want to run a business that is sustainable as possible.” 

The shop has been open since 2002 and started life as one of the smaller buildings in the farm’s courtyard. It is now an outlet for fully traceable meat, mainly reared on the farm, as well as local free range chicken and seasonal game such as venison, pheasant and partridge. It also sells a range of other local goods including eggs, cheeses, olives, cured meats, fruit, vegetables, preserves, chocolate and sweets. 

The farm shop uses social media actively to reach out to its customers. Its head butcher often records short videos for Facebook and Instagram, to update locals on the latest products going on sale. In the lead up to Christmas the shop’s hugely popular festive hampers are also being snapped up already. 

Thomas adds: “We are extremely busy at the moment, which is fantastic. Factoring in the impact of the pandemic, we’ve also responded to the needs of our customers and are now able to offer deliveries direct to people’s homes. We hope this will go a long way to helping make the festive season just that little bit easier.”