'We don't want to close': Farm shop makes plea for support during lockdown
- Credit: Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Copyright: Archant 2021
A family-run farm and gift shop in a Norfolk village has made a heartfelt plea for support, as the third national lockdown has left is owners fearing for the future.
The Little White Lamb Co, in West Harling, took to Facebook to in a last-ditch attempt to bring back customers, as it faces a “terrible dilemma” whether or not to close the farm shop.
The Shave family, from East Harling, started farming six years ago in 2015, with hopes of building a better life together - despite having no experience behind them.
But after rearing their first five lambs, the family were hooked and have since built a successful business with three flocks of Norfolk Horn rare breeds.
In 2019, Olivia and Justin Shave and their two daughters, Jenna 23, and Abigail, 21, decided to open their very own sustainable farm and gift shop, ‘The Studio’, alongside their farming business.
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As the pandemic hit in March of last year, Mrs Shave said business was booming as the family worked tirelessly to provide the community with local and fresh produce.
They created a website, set up a delivery service, click and collect, started meat and veg box schemes and donated around 500 ready meals.
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And up until November, Mrs Shave said profits were 70pc up on the year before.
But as December came and went and the country was forced into a third national lockdown, the business owner said now their customers “have just gone”.
In an online Facebook post, on Monday, January 25, she wrote: “Feeling heartbroken, facing the terrible dilemma to close our beautiful farm shop.
“On the balance sheet or by any other financial test we are not insolvent but after so many months of uncertainty, mothballing, declining orders and incurring ongoing costs we don't know how much longer we will survive.
"Anyone that knows us a family will know how hard we work, how it came about, and just how much passion we all put into it yet apart from our very loyal customers that return week upon week, for whom we are eternally grateful to, we cannot change the perception of some of you.
"There are not enough tissues to mop up our tears. Night after night discussions are held as to what it takes to gain more support even if it's merely a shout out on social media, a like of a post, a share. Anything would help us."
The 46-year-old said it was a “hard decision” to post her feelings online, but it’s important that people understand the impact of the pandemic on small businesses.
“It’s soul-destroying," said Mrs Shave.
"I really don’t want the shop to close. The farming side would carry on but it's so sad for our rural areas to lose these little treasures.
“There is no comparison for the service you get.
“We support around 250 local producers and makers form Norfolk. That’s what people also forget.”
In their farm shop, the family have also invested in a barista machine and a deli counter, as well as a delivery van, as they try to adapt the business.
But despite the difficult start to 2021, Mrs Shave said they pride themselves on the quality of their lamb and in June last year they won the Great Taste Awards.
“We are making a plea and asking people to support us and remind them how important it is to shop local,” she added.
“Be more mindful and think about how your food is produced.
“Farmers are the forgotten key workers. We have so much up against us. But we turn up come rain or shine.
“Not through profit but passion of what we do.
“We are all struggling financially, but even if someone just bought a birthday card, that’s boosting our local economy and helping us to thrive. Consider us for even the smallest item.”
The shop remains closed but its services are available through the Little White Lamb Co's online site here, https://thelittlewhitelamb.co.uk/.