Farm retailers hope new shopping habits will stick

Farm retailers nationwide are hopeful that shopping habits forged as a reaction to coronavirus will last long beyond the pandemic, following an unprecedented surge in new customers.

Providing reliable access to abundant fresh seasonal produce, sourced with low food miles directly from local family-run farms at fair prices, the country’s huge network of independent farm shops has become a more attractive option to shoppers than ever before, according to research by the Farm Retail Association (FRA).

Following seven weeks of lockdown rules, 92 per cent of farm retailers surveyed by the FRA reported a “significant” rise in new customers as shelves were continually replenished and offered customers appealing local alternatives to under-pressure supermarkets.

Quick to adapt, farm shops are, crucially, providing calm environments with easy to follow social distancing measures that allow shoppers to feel safe. Not only have most farm shops stayed open, many have come up with convenient new ways to serve their communities.

Some 79 per cent of farm retailers polled by the FRA said they had introduced a click and collection service because of coronavirus, including in the form of completely contactless drive-thrus, while another 67 per cent have introduced home deliveries.

As a result, farm shops across the UK have processed an estimated 1.4 million-plus orders for home delivery or collection since the government announced its lockdown rules in March.

This ingenuity means farm shops are protecting hundreds of jobs and income for thousands of farmer suppliers in otherwise difficult economic circumstances. The addition of new services alone has allowed 73 per cent of farm retailers to either hire extra staff or furlough fewer employees than they expected to.

In Shrewsbury, Battlefield 1403 Farm Shop has risen to the challenges of Covid-19 by introducing new initiatives such as a delivery service for shop produce and Sunday lunches and an ‘Order & Collection’ service from both the shop and café.  Further services and products are also in the planning for launches shortly.

Jeremy Jagger said: “We have worked hard to adapt quickly to ensure our customers continue to have access to quality, fresh locally-produced food without disruption.

“The feedback we have received from new and returning customers has been hugely rewarding and gives me enormous hope that they will keep shopping with us, long after the coronavirus pandemic ends.”

Rob Copley, chairman of the FRA, acknowledges that the challenge for farm shops as life slowly returns to some form of normality over the coming months, is to ensure that customers keep coming back. However, he is adamant that farm shops are well worth such lasting loyalty. 

Mr Copley, who owns Farmer Copleys Farm Shop in Pontefract, said: “What the last couple of months have clearly shown is that farm retailers can react nimbly to customer demands because of their size, independence and direct relationships with local farmers.

“They have also shown that they are proactive, supportive members of their local communities. We have members who prepare and deliver ready meals to local community groups that support the most vulnerable members of society. Others are donating produce to local school hubs, frontline NHS staff and other key workers.

“As well as going above and beyond in this time of crisis, farm retailers are helping to keep the nation fed, offering easy access to fresh, nutritious and affordable British food. They are demonstrating that they are both caring neighbours and viable alternatives to the supermarkets, boasting shorter supply chains with lower carbon footprints.

“Run by local families for local families, supporting local farmers and local jobs, farm shops are at the beating heart of communities across the country. We just hope customers keep coming back to support them and local farmers for years to come.”

Farm retailers play an important role in the rural economy and provide a welcome source of income for thousands of independent suppliers across the country, from family farms to artisan makers.

The FRA estimates that the UK’s network of farm shops support thousands of local suppliers and together have a combined turnover of more than £1.5bn, including sales from farm shop cafés.

To search for your nearest farm shop, go to


Pete White Pete White

Love Shrewsbury editor and chief developer at The Web Orchard, find out more on

Read More from Pete White