Agriculture and Food
Farm shop reaps record sales as we shop local in lockdown
An already popular farm shop nestled in the Gloucestershire countryside has described how it did not so much ‘pivot’ as positively pirouette as sales went into a heady upward spiral through lockdown.
A combination of busy supermarkets, anxiety over in-door spaces, its own fantastic selection of vegetables, fruit, flowers and plants and more sent the business into overdrive.
Stancombe Beech Farm Shop, at Bisley, supports two families and usually expects a steady flow of customersthrough the summer – but it has never seen an appetite for fresh produce and gardening products in all their formsas it has seen in recent weeks.
“When lockdown hit we thought people would stop coming in,” said Keith Dickenson, who runs the 55-plus acre farm with his brother, Ashley.
Sunflower pictures by Gloucestershire photographer Simon Pizzey
“My daughterthought it was a good idea to put a few words onto Facebook about us doing a home delivery and collection service to hel things along.
“We didn’t know what to expect. By the morning it had gone crazy and we had to take the post down.”
It was not just food – as people spent more time at home the yearning to garden took over. The farm shops wide selection of bedding plants, and compost became a major draw.
And the farm’s honey – from its 150 hives - became extremely popular as people searched out natural remedies for anything resembling a cough, or perhaps just something tasty for their toast.
It was all hands to the pumps, with daughter Rebecca and Ashley’s daughters Libby and Maria helping make things possible.
While all this was going on the two families also had to somehow juggle the arable work that needed doing through the summer months, and manage the upturn in customers.
“We were working seven days a week, 10 hours a day for allthat time,” said Mr Dickenson, who the philosophical way about him of someone who is used to the need to change and respond to the unpredictable.
Stancombe Beech Farm was once a major provider of eggs, until a certain slip of the tongue by former Government minister Edwina Currie. It was forced to destroy thousands of its eggs for a base price, and finally shifted its business entirely out of the sector when bird flu threatened.
Supermarkets which opened in the last decade in nearby Stroud decimated trade too.
There is nothing to say so in his voice, but you wonder whether the 52-year-old takes a little pleasure from the family business once more becoming the go-to shopping experience through the crisis over its big brand hits archnemeses.
Hours remain 8am to 1pm Monday to Saturday, and 9am to 12.30pm on Sunday, as well as2pm to 5.30pm on Thursday and Friday.
It knows it could open more, and as people return to workthey will not be unable to make thosetimes, but the Dickensons hope they will keep some of those customers they have so enjoyed having.
In the meantime, not least because its annual sunflowers display is in full bloom, it is all smiles at what was one of the Five Valleys best kept secrets.