UK The Farm, Stratford (Small Farm Shop of the Year)

The Farm at Stratford-upon-Avon scooped two awards this year

The UK's top farm retailers were crowned winners at the national Farm Retail Awards last night (3 March), which were held virtually for the first time.

Winners across eight categories were selected at the ceremony organised by the Farm Retail Association (FRA), formed in 1979 to support the industry.

It was a huge night for family-run business The Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon, which scooped two awards after wooing judges with Nourish, its high-end café and restaurant, as well as the farm shop’s immersive shopping experience.

The Farm Retail Awards, sponsored by The EPOS Bureau, are the only awards judged by fellow farm retailers that celebrate the best farm shops, farm cafés and restaurants, farmers’ markets and trade suppliers in the country.

The award winners are:

CAFE/RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR: Nourish at The Farm, Stratford, Warwickshire. According to judges, Nourish is a brand that ‘shouts quality’, delivering a high-end proposition where food is king.

PICK YOUR OWN: Cammas Hall Fruit Farm, Hertfordshire. The judges declared that this is how a pick your own should be; professionally run with healthy crops meticulously laid out and planned to be as efficient as possible.

LARGE FARM SHOP OF THE YEAR: Calcott Hall Farm Shop, Essex. As well as demonstrating a fantastic range of products and extremely high levels of customer service, a focus on teamwork and in-house development won over the judges.

RISING STAR OF THE YEAR: Minskip Farm Shop / Yolk Farm, North Yorkshire. With a strong customer proposition and retail offer, an outstanding focus on staff development, impressive attention to detail and an extremely well thought out brand.

SMALL FARM SHOP: The Farm, Stratford, Warwickshire. Its design and ambience pack a ‘wow’ factor to complement an immersive shopping experience. A genuine focus on staff and team culture also impressed the judges.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Stuart Beare, Tulleys Farm, West Sussex. Former FRA Chairman Stuart has been an active member of the FRA for 30 years and loves sharing his knowledge about a retail sector that he holds dear. Never afraid to try something new and innovative, Stuart hosts popular pumpkin festivals and Halloween experiences, has diversified into Escape Rooms and responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by opening a highly successful drive thru farm retail operation.

SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR: Appetite Me, Suffolk. Scoring especially highly in their approach to customer service, this business was described as ‘approachable, warm, engaging and well qualified to be offering advice to the sector’. The judges were impressed by the huge array of ways in which Appetite Me helps farm retailers.

FARMERS MARKET: Hampshire Farmers Market. Judges were impressed the extremely high standards set by a community of stall holders, their range of stalls and products, and the market’s strong management and marketing.

Chairman Rob Copley said: “Judging this year’s entries really was no mean feat. The FRA is proud to represent a sector that is bursting with imagination, full of innovation and most importantly, a real passion for quality British produce. A huge congratulations to all our winners, they are truly among the very best in the business.

“It has taken a superhuman effort by everyone in farm retail over the last 12 months to adapt to very different ways of doing business and serving customers. All of our winners can take great pride in what they have achieved and they can look to the future with great confidence.”

The awards ceremony was opened by celebrity chef Rosemary Shrager and is part of the FRA’s annual industry conference.

Entitled ‘Stronger Together 2021’, this year’s event features expert guest speakers, topical workshops and virtual farm shop tours throughout the week (1st-5th March). The five-day online event is sponsored by NFU Mutual.

As part of the event, David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London, explains how farm retailers can stay a step ahead of the supermarkets, and John Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food joins Matt Bunch of The Camden Grocer to share insights on running a slick deli counter.

How to better connect with the Over 55s – the demographic with the largest growth in uptake of online shopping in 2020 – is discussed by consumer specialist Kate Hardcastle MBE and broadcaster Harry Gration MBE, while Susan Hallam MBE advises on how to make digital marketing cost effective.

The virtual conference and awards celebrations were organised by FRA managing agents Yorkshire Agricultural Society.