Now is the time for farmers to reach out to the public, says farm shop owner

Stuart and Rebecca Mayhew with some of the goats which have been greeting visitors to the farm shop

Stuart and Rebecca Mayhew with some of the goats which have been greeting visitors to the farm shop at Old Hall Farm in Woodton. Picture: Old Hall Farm - Credit: Old Hall Farm

An enterprising farm shop owner who launched online orders and home deliveries during the lockdown says the revived interest in local food means there has “never been a better time” for farmers to engage with consumers.

Rebecca Mayhew is one of the owners of Old Hall Farm at Woodton, near Bungay, which has a Jersey dairy herd, a cafe and farm shop.

A surge in demand for local food during the coronavirus crisis created opportunities for the business, sparking new initiatives including the launch of an online shop and a home delivery service for meals and groceries to help people who can’t leave their homes due to self-isolation.

And while some dairy businesses struggled with a loss of demand from the food service sector, Old Hall Farm also created cheese hampers which have helped other Norfolk farmhouse cheese producers to reach new customers.

Mrs Mayhew said that spirit of cooperation, along with continued efforts to engage the public, would be crucial if food and farming businesses are to maintain the momentum after the crisis ends.

“It is our job as farmers to reach out to people, and there has never been a better time,” she said. “Food security is up the agenda now for a lot of people so this is exactly the right time to make the most of this and shout about what we do.

“We need to continue that dialogue, getting people out on the farm to find out why it matters how their food is produced. It should be as important for someone to research how their potatoes are grown as it is researching what car to buy.

READ MORE: Cattle farmer aims to capitalise on huge lockdown demand for local beef“We have been very lucky, because we found new customers who are that much more interested in their food than they were before. People sought us out because a need has been enforced upon them, but now is the time to show a point of difference and keep them coming back. It is absolutely up to us.”

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Mrs Mayhew said one example of the farm’s efforts to engage the public was keeping young goats near the shop entrance, to “make people happy” while they were queuing to collect food from the shop.

“You see a lot of farmers out showing what happens on farms, and telling the story,” she said. It is so important for people not to take food for granted.

“That shock of not being able to get bread, eggs and milk showed people how supply chains work. If you can shorten supply chains not only can you support very local businesses, but you can also improve your nutrient density.”

READ MORE: Farm shops report huge rise in demand during lockdown