How social media saw farm shop and business hub through pandemic

Oliver and Charlotte Gurney, owners of White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden

Oliver and Charlotte Gurney, owners of White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

An award-winning farm shop and enterprise hub which has grown from a small shed to employing 100 people has emphasised the power of online community.

The White House Farm in Rackheath near Sprowston, is home to 10 businesses including a nursery, an interior design store and Norfolk Raider cider.

The hub, owned by Charlotte and Oliver Gurney, has evolved from a Pick Your Own service with a farm shop and café in a small shed to now employing over 100 people.

It is followed by over 2,000 people on Instagram almost 10,000 on Facebook, with the farm using these platforms to showcase how its produce goes from farm to fork.

Easing of lockdown restrictions has meant that the majority of businesses at the centre have welcomed backed customers for the first time in months, and Mrs Gurney believes that social media has helped get people back through the door.

White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden

White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant


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She said: “Social media has been invaluable. We’re very lucky that our story lends itself very well to social media and are so enthused and engaged by the sort of material that we’re churning out.

“As we tell people how it all works and about all the people involved I think we gain people’s trust and empathy and it’s so much more of a personal service that you’re delivering to someone.

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“It’s been paramount for our survival.”

White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden

White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

Since the Gurneys returned to the family farm in 2013 they have won the Battle of the Banger competition and were named the Best Farmshop and Deli in Norfolk by Muddy Stilettos in 2018.

Many of the businesses at White House Farm are owned by women which Mrs Gurney believes creates a “family dynamic” at the centre, with women also making up around 80pc of the site’s social media following.

Only the farm shop has been allowed to stay open during lockdown due to coronavirus restrictions, but all businesses are now back trading and are keen to be back among their punters again.

“We’ve learned that community could not be more important, and it’s always beyond me why anybody would want to buy fruit or veg from either outside the county or from abroad, when they live in such a wonderful county as Norfolk,” Mrs Gurney added.

Dotty Pottery, one of the many businesses at White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden

Dotty Pottery, one of the many businesses at White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

“Small businesses like ourselves have really been there for people during the pandemic and now we hope we have gained their trust and their loyalty as we come out [of lockdown] and we look forward.

“People will have made changes to that future, and we hope that those habits might stick, and that people will really engage on a local level.

“We have a really young team, and their energy is keenly felt as they come back to embrace this. It would have been too easy for so many of us to think, ‘I've completely had enough’, and that positivity is probably what drives us on so I'm really grateful to have them around us.”

Knowles Studios, one of the many businesses at White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Bood

Knowles Studios, one of the many businesses at White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

The site is not standing still despite the setback of the pandemic, with plans in place to welcome new tenants once existing businesses are back on their feet.

Mrs Gurney said: “First of all we want to get all the businesses back running which we are so fortunate to have retained through this last 18 months.

“We're very lucky that at the heart of it we sell food, but we've got many businesses that haven’t been essential that will need to get back on their feet, so to see the place humming again is the first point of call.

“But there are still units that we're developing on the site so there we've got some quite aggressive expansion plans which are still in place.”

The Hair Boutique, one of the many businesses at White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Bo

The Hair Boutique, one of the many businesses at White House Farm in Sprowston. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

“Commercial agents recognise these hubs as the heart of the economy; they employ and are run by local people who have their 'skin in the game'.

“The care and attention they put into their businesses is second to none. Their tenacity is what keeps mini villages like White House Farm alive.”

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