The value of Britain’s farm shops to the nation – and to farmers – is to be studied by researchers at Harper Adams University.
Commissioned by the Farm Retail Association, researchers at Harper’s department of food, land and agri-business management will investigate the benefits of farm shops to local communities, the UK economy and the countryside.
It is estimated that there are well over 1,000 premises up and down the country which would fall under the definition of a farm shop – though the research will aim to clarify this as it seeks to build a clearer picture of the sector.
The study will draw heavily on a survey of Farm Retail Association members. The research is being led by Alastair Boot, senior lecturer in food retail and marketing. Findings are expected to be released in spring next year.
“We know that farm shops are valued – both by the retail and agricultural sectors, and by the communities they serve,” said Mr Boot.
“Many of us will have a favourite farm shop in our area, for instance – and there’s been some evidence over the past 18 months that, as we all strove to stay local, retail patterns have changed – with a growing appetite for British farm shops.
“However, there is a need to build up a picture of the sector as a whole and its impact across the country – and this is where our research, commissioned by the Farm Retail Association, will come in.
“Once we develop that clearer understating, it can be used to make the case for the nation’s existing farm shops, and to help develop the sector further.”
Farm Retail Association chairman Rob Copley said the study findings would help to promote farm retailers – and support farm businesses with planning application and funding bids.
“This is the biggest research project that we have ever undertaken and the results will fly the flag for our industry.”
Many farm shops experienced a boom during the coronavirus lockdown as consumers sought to buy local. The pandemic saw a new appreciation for the role of local farm shops and butchers as shoppers sought to avoid larger, busier stores.
It is estimated nearly half of British shoppers avoided large supermarkets at the height of the pandemic, favouring farm shops and other local businesses that were able to provide essentials such as meat, vegetables, baking ingredients and other groceries to keep the nation fed.
With the lost luxury of dining out, the National Sheep Association said local butchers and farm shops were able to provide fresh locally produced meat and vegetables as the nation turned back to cooking at home and “dining in”.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “It’s time to return the favour by continuing to shop locally, using butchers and farm shops, but also asking supermarkets to identify where their produce was sourced.”