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March 20, 2015 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Farm Shop Evolution – article in the Specialty Food magazine

Farm Shop Evolution, Specialty Food magazine, March 2015, page 24

Farm Shop Evolution, Specialty Food magazine, March 2015, page 24

Since Apley Farm Shop opened nearly 4 yrs ago (on 31 March 2011), I’ve been keeping a press file of all published articles & leaflets, which provides a great timeline & history of our development & progress.

I spend part of my time writing advertorials & press releases about what’s on & developments at Apley Farm Shop & in Apley Walled Garden. It’s always a great pleasure to see any of that work in print, so I thought I’d begin to share all published articles here on my blog, starting with the latest which appeared this week in the Specialty Food magazine, called Farm Shop Evolution by Robin Goldsmith. Robin called me a few months ago (when it was even colder than today) to talk about how far farm shops have evolved from their original concepts.

Ten years ago, a farm shop was never much more than a shed on the roadside or a stall in a chilly farm building. Today, there’s a farm shop for everyone – from foodies to families, some providing a very complete shopping experience. Being independent & often run by family members, each one is different & unique. Plus, now consumers are much better informed about the food they eat & its provenance. They can be more selective than ever, getting great taste & value for money too.

At Apley, we’ve evolved very much into a Destination Farm Shop, for which we were recognised in an article last year listing us amongst the UK’s top 10 destination farm shops. Our business base is broader than we originally planned – with The Farm Shop, The Creamery Café & Pigg’s Playbarn being the first 3 core businesses.

It was a great honour to have The Creamery Café listed amongst the top 3 UK Farm Shop café restaurants, by journalist AA Gill in December last year. Tina Buckland, our new General Manager, has a strong background in catering, so will no doubt continue to build on that recognition.

I was just chatting to Gavin about it & he says he feels particularly glad we have stuck closely to one of our core philosophies of supplying Shropshire best quality local food & drink to local people.

I’ve really enjoyed adding the Apley Walled Garden dimension which wasn’t on the drawing board at all back in 2011. Plus, we have spent more time than ever anticipated on event management as we found it to be an important way to attract new visitors who may otherwise not discover all we have to offer.

Only 2 years after opening, we added the Apley Walled Garden dimension. Having been out of production for 50 years, no-one could ever have imagined the extraordinary & rapid progress made by one man – Phil Allen, our Head Gardener. He was producing vegetables within the first 3 months & this year has again quadrupled his production. In the first year (2013), he grew unusual varieties of fruit & vegetable for the Farm Shop, but since 2014, he’s been supplying equal quantities of traditional & less well known produce, as we realised customers need time to adapt to new tastes.

He has relished the huge challenge from the outset, to develop the gardens from such an extreme state of disuse. The gardens predate 1775 & we’re lucky they are very well appointed with great soil quality. I know Phil enjoys working every day in such a beautiful & historic environment.

We have developed a production kitchen, which didn’t exist at the outset, where Apley branded products are produced, ranging from ready made meals, soups, Scotch eggs, savoury & sweet tartes & cakes. Julie is a local dairy farmer’s wife who with great baking talent. Her bakery at the Farm Shop has been also been a huge success, producing & selling increasing amounts every month.

Earlier this month, I’ve blogged about our switch from paper to digital (website, online) advertising, which makes my marketing much more scientific. We have had great fun creating our first few films, about to be shown on our in-store televisions next week. Other 2015 marketing strategies includes trialling Click & Collect veg boxes & hampers, as well as possibly ‘Apley To Go’ meal bags containing weighed ingredients, so customers can get straight down to the fun of cooking !

To read the whole article in Specialty Food, you can download the issue by clicking HERE

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