Recently I visited Low Sizergh Barn Farm Shop and Tea Room just on the edge of Cumbria, home of the English Lakes. I enjoyed my cream tea while watching the cows being milked in the parlour below. At the next table were a mother and small son who happily played with the toy tractor and sheep, supplied by the tea room.
You couldn’t get a more graphic illustration of the connection between the cream on my scone and the cow in the parlour.
This farm shop has gone the whole hog and put their farm shop literally over the farm. Next to the dairy, the herd were housed in straw barns, ensuring that you couldn’t fail to notice that you were on a farm.
Being on a farm is what makes your shop different from retailers on the high street & supermarkets.
Exploit that difference.
You’ll never compete on price, so don’t even try, instead offer a slice of life on the farm.
How do you put more farm into your farm shop?
Be creative. No milking parlour? Here are some quick ideas to get you thinking:
• Set up a lamb feeding station next door to the shop
• Provide point of sale information about every farm product with pictures of e.g. Cabbage in the field
• Rig up a webcam in the dairy, lambing shed (lambing live), veg packing area, or cheese making area (make sure you ask staff first!)
• Set up a heated seed growing area in your shop with information on what’s growing and when it’ll be ready
• Set up monthly spinning demonstrations
• Try occasional cooking demonstrations (entice local chefs, or cooks to come and show off their expertise)
• Cheese making video running on a monitor
• Hay making video running on a monitor
• Wall size farm map with trails marked
• Pictures of farm & farm workers
• Nature table – encourage children to collect conkers, leaves etc to put on the nature table (needs supervision!)
• Renewable energy control panel (show for instance, how much rain water you’ve harvested)
Some activities will require supervision and some investment but others can be created once, like the videos, and then used over and over again in your shop and online.
Why does it matter?
We know that people perceive that food is cheaper in supermarkets (even when it isn’t) and so you have to give them a different reason to make the trip out to your place. In the end how you make people feel is important. For many a taste of farm life feels good. Increasingly people are looking for a connection with the land and soil. As a farm shop you can provide that access through creatively bringing your farm into the farm shop.
That will bring them back to spend more money with you.
Where can you get more ideas?
Think about every aspect of your farm shop in terms of the customer experience of being on a farm. Visit other shops and get ideas. Engage all the senses, touch, sight, smell (the good ones). Unlike a supermarket, you don’t have to manufacture the scent of baking bread to trick customers into buying, all you have to do is find ways to bring more of the farm into your farm shop.
What about health & hygiene regulations?
Yes these can be challenging but generally you can find creative ways to accommodate them and still bring in more of the farm
Like Low Sizergh Barn Farm Shop and Tea Room, use your farm to create a unique atmosphere that attracts people to eat, buy and shop with you precisely because you offer something they can’t find on the high street or at the out of town superstores.
If you’d like on site marketing advice for marketing produce from your small holding or small farm,