We’re almost at the stage where we’ve begun to find some rhythm and dare I say it, routine in our day’s work. Which in recent times, means it is time for another government announcement to shake it all up again. It’s hard work planning a business at the moment. On the one hand, you have the rules and regulations that we are all adapting to, and the other hand, the even trickier task of trying to predict how we’ll all settle down and behave as customers for the coming months and years ahead. There is always peaks and troughs, but after 12 years of running a farm shop business, we felt we could get pretty close to being able to plan the future pretty well. That hard-earned knowledge and experience may well be replaced by a finger in the air and gut-instinct for the foreseeable.
The panic stage of a few weeks ago brought with it unprecedented demand, which in normal times would be wonderful, but we also had a duty to protect our team from the mayhem. We reacted quickly, adapted our business to launch an online store with a contactless delivery and collection service and then began to rebuild by reopening the farm shop just a couple of weeks ago.
This last week or two has seen trade settle down. The population had realised that we won’t run out of food and systems have adapted and innovation has started. The big guns of the industry, have seen trade soar whilst also benefiting from the government handouts. News of Tesco sending out over one million deliveries a week is quite astounding. Add to this the reports are that they have saved nearly £600 million in costs from rate relief. Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose have all announced a new service where they can get your grocery order to you in under 2 hours from ordering online. The rise of the supermarkets will continue it seems. As a small independent food producer and retailer, this can be scary to read. But from a personal view, the supermarkets along with all their staff have done an incredible job of keeping the nation fed and play a very important role. I was recently sent this article by a friend with a view to how the marketplace may look in the US over the coming years. It’s a fascinating outlook, and there are many similarities with what seems to be happening over here in the UK with the rise of the big powers and the struggles of the independents. Whatever the outcome, we’re sure in for a different ride over the coming years to what we thought a few months ago.
One thing that has become very apparent though is that for many of us, putting properly produced, local food on the table has become just as important. For much of our produce, the meat, the dairy, the eggs, the fruit and vegetables, we source directly from our own farm and local farmers. By and large, there hasn’t been a supply issue because of this. The importance of a robust local supply chain has never been more so. To add to this, we’ve welcomed many new customers who’ve been lovely enough to tell us of their surprise in the difference in quality, from our own local meat, that has been properly farmed, and properly cared for by the butcher to that of their previous supermarket staple. No one is less surprised than me. A properly dry-aged, grass-fed sirloin steak takes years in the making. A great deal of skill and work goes into this, something that is not easily scaled up to a national or international level.
So therein lies our ‘new normal’. Its to persevere in our vision for providing the very best local food to our community. Through our farming techniques, forging stronger ties with our neighbouring food producers and never settling for second best. What will change is how we deliver that ‘last mile’ in getting that wonderful food on your table. Local delivery, click and collect have become our new normal and we’ll continue to experiment and innovate with new ways. It’s a big challenge for a small family business, but one we are very excited about facing.
All the best.