You could not find a better location for Home Farm’s grocery shop at Farrington Gurney, for it stands overlooking the confluence of the arterial A39, A362 and A37. The farmhouse here has been the home of Tish and Andy Jeffery since 1989 and in the last decade their business has grown to become an award winning and popular community hub.
When you arrive at Farrington’s Farm Shop there is much to look at: not only is the farm shop busy inside and out, but there is also a thriving fishmonger, called The Pink Prawn, run by Joe Monaghan, who used to work at Fishworks and who sources his stock of wonderful fish and shellfish straight from Brixham. His shop is filled with recipes and ideas for how to use the daily catch, and there is a very considerable range, much wider than what you would find even in a large supermarket.
There is also a beauty salon, a florist and a gift shop. At the back of the farm shop, past a menagerie of hens, pigs, goats, sheep and donkeys, you can see The Thoughtful Bread Company bakery that supplies the farm shop, and there are two big car parks that mean you need never queue.
Once you have walked past the 29 different varieties of English apples sourced from the national collection at Brogdale Hall in Kent, homegrown cabbages, leeks, potatoes, cauliflowers and broccoli, you enter a food hall that is quite remarkable in size and ambition for a small, family owned business.
“We started slowly,” Tish tells me, “because in the very beginning we were literally just a farm shop. But then we renovated the barn and we created a production kitchen and a café as well. We opened to the public in 2001 and the timing could not have been better: the foot and mouth epidemic had just ended and there was a very big push for everyone to go back out into the countryside.”
You could easily do the whole of your weekly shop here, and certainly purchase an entire dinner party. In the delicatessen section and chilled counter there are home cooked ready meals, pies, tarts, filo pastry parcels, dips, scotch eggs and salads. Everything is made on the premises using fresh, seasonal home grown ingredients, or bought in from small, artisanal suppliers the owners know and trust.
The 350 acres that surround the farm shop are set out for growing wheat, maize and grass to feed the young stock cattle who provide the manure to fertilise the 60 acres that are cultivated to grow organic fruit and vegetables. The Soil Association has awarded 35 of their acres organic status, and they do not spray pesticides on any of their crops.
Horticulturist Helen Trowsdale is in charge of making sure that the farm shop is supplied with a constant stream of fresh produce, and she is one of the many members of staff featured in the farm shop’s newsletters, printed in the black and white cow hide branding that can be seen on posters and labels throughout the shop. The local vernacular words “gert” and “lush” are used liberally, to indicate all that is great and wholesome about the recipes and activities showcased.
The Jon Thorner’s butchery counter in the shop is intricately prepared with fresh cuts of meat and the cheese counter is practically overflowing with a wide variety of both local and imported cheeses. The Christmas stock is slowly coming in, from confectionery to homemade chocolate, cakes, puddings, trimmings and decorations. In the café it is only Tuesday but most of the tables are already filled with the lunch time customers that use this part of the farm shop as their central meeting point. The café is also the hub of all the cookery demonstrations that are carried out by Farrington’s Food Club, using the huge Everhot heat storing electric cooking range that doubles as central heating for the big barn room. They are made in Dursley, Gloucestershire.
“It’s the ideal cooker for us here,” Tish told me, “because it’s very economical to run, really effective to cook on, the ovens and grills are very powerful and everyone who comes on our demonstrations wants one.”
Farrington’s Farm Shop is one example among many up and down the country of how the recession is making food and drink consumers rethink where their money is being spent. Where a wide range is on offer, produce is grown locally, food is cooked with care, displayed with skill and served with knowledge, shoppers are preferring to put their money in community businesses rather than multinational corporate brands. Not all the product ranges are sold at a discount to supermarket prices, but there are plenty of bargains to be had if you look and plan ahead. Tish is also using Facebook and Twitter to reach out to her customers and this is, undeniably, another reason for her success.
The sheer friendliness of the teams behind the counters makes for an uplifting and celebratory shopping experience: and that is something very hard to find in the bowels of a supermarket.
Farrington’s Farm Shop website: www.farringtons.co.uk
Follow the Team on Twitter: @FarringtonsShop