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In your field: Rachel Coates - 'The interaction of customer and farmer has a two way benefit'

They say every day is a school day and inviting the general public into your farmyard on a daily basis is certainly an education.

The first lesson was the old adage of never judge a book by its cover or, in this case, never judge who will be good customers by their car or general appearance. We have had some big surprises there.

 

Secondly, I have been involved in sales most of my working life and dealing with customers is second nature to me. However, Stephen and Ben have been on a steep learning curve, which they have both been equal to and have found interesting.

 

The interaction of customer and farmer has a two-way benefit.

 

Finally, never underestimate the popularity of banana flavoured milk.

 

When we started offering flavoured syrups a few weeks ago, we envisaged strawberry and chocolate would be regular varieties and that the third one would be for various flavours, such as salted caramel, vanilla, praline and occasionally banana. But we get many disappointed customers when banana is not there.


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We got our first cut of silage in the middle of May; not great in quantity, but one we wondered if we would get at all in March when the rain would not stop and in April when the rain would not start.

 

There have been changes to silage time routine this year, mainly working with and feeding contractors while
adhering to social distancing rules, plus new health and safety issues around farm machinery and milk
hut customers.

 

Fortunately our contractors were able to fit us in on the day of the week we close.

 

I noticed around the country several on-farm milk vending operations not opening for business at silage time, highlighting another difficulty of mixing farming and the general public.

 

At the start of the pandemic, we had to think carefully about the risk to ourselves of operating the vending business. We are not on the frontline like NHS workers or even retail assistants, but we distantly communicate with customers on a daily basis.

 

We are fortunate this communication takes place outdoors and we adhere to rigorous hygiene procedures, so are comfortable with what we are doing.

 

Several times recently, though, I have had to ask people to respect the two-metre rule. The relaxation of
restrictions and other distractions Boris Johnson has allowed has made people rather complacent.

 

To finish, although as a small family farm it is easy to be downhearted about the shenanigans in Parliament regarding the Agriculture Bill, we take heart from customers who have told us they are more than happy to pay a little extra to support British farmers to get good quality food and know where it has come from.

 

Most of our customers are not wealthy, just regular people who highlight once again how out of step Westminster is.

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