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Farm shops: What's the difference?

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Geograph -290604-by -Nigel -StickellsWhether you live in a city or a rural backwater, over the last few years (possibly decades) Farm shops have been becoming a bit of a thing - and the area surrounding Bressingham Steam and Gardens is no different.

We decided to take a look into where the farm shop phenomenon started and why?

When did farm shops start springing up?

Today’s farm shops have their origins in simple stalls at farm gates selling eggs or seasonal produce from the farm itself (in America they’re still called “Farm stands”.

Although Britain’s oldest Farm shop, Hinchcliffes in West Yorkshire, claims to have started in 1929, according to Rob Goldsmith, a freelance writer for Speciality Food Magazine, the trend for farm shops really got going in the mid-1970’s as a way for farms to diversify their sources of income.

The main emphasis of these Farm shops was the local provenance of the products they sold - differentiating them from the expanding supermarkets.

This has continued with most farm shops concentrating on locally sourced produce and higher end premium goods (such as organic).

Why did they increase in popularity?

According to a 2017 Daily Telegraph article about the rise in popularity of farm shops 39% of Brits have been to a Farm shop in the last year - So if they’ve been rattling along since the ’70s why this increase in popularity?

The main cause can be linked to a rash of food scandals over the last decade involving big, mainstream shops. In many cases the retailer and even manufacturers didn’t seem to know where the food they were selling came from (anyone remember the Horse Meat Lasagne?)

With their emphasis on local produce, Farm shops were in a perfect place to capitalise on this catastrophic crisis of faith in the supermarkets and were readily taken up by middle-class shoppers.

Advantages of a good farm shop over supermarkets?

Farm shops impact positively for a number of reasons;

  • Enviromentally - with their emphasis on local produce and producers the food-miles and packaging can be greatly reduced (possibly the produce never leaves the farm until it’s bought!)
  • Community - most successful farm shops work hard to create a close network of local businesses and producers, helping to keep local economies vibrant.
  • Economically - Provides an additional income stream and greater independence from large retailers (who have been know to make unreasonable demands in order to keep prices low).

Very often the food is great too, having been selected with an eye on quality rather than economy (You might have to get used to washing your lettuce though - often it’s fresher and hasn’t been mechanically washed!)

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Photo © Nigel Stickells (cc-by-sa/2.0)

By Alastair Baker at 22 Nov 2018, 00:00 AM