With building conversions often time-consuming and expensive, Alex Black spoke to Lois Selmes at Waterperry Farm Shop, near Oxford, about how a modular building proved a good option.
Location has been the key behind the success of an Oxfordshire farm shop, with customers looking for the provenance its owners can provide.
William and Lois Selmes run a 142-hectare beef and arable farm in Oxfordshire and Waterperry Farm Shop is now into its second year.
Their location has been key to their success, with the shop close to Oxford and within easy reach of London. Mrs Selmes also said they were lucky to be situated ‘right next door’ to Waterperry Gardens, which attracts people in to see its 3ha of landscaped ornamental gardens all-year-round.
Mrs Selmes said: “That means there is an established footfall.”
They also have a small flock of sheep and sell their own beef and lamb directly to farm shop customers.
“Everyone is really pleased we can give total provenance of all the food,” she said.
“They say it is lovely we are a proper farm shop. We do sell a few other bits, but we do not sell all the gifts and things like that. We sell a local farm’s pork and poultry and another local farm’s milk and eggs.
“We have a kitchen, too. So we make ready meals, jams and chutneys on-site.”
She added farmers considering whether they should open their own shop really needed to know the local area, the local market and the footfall.
“It is critical to be in a good location,” she added.
“Likewise, if you are going to open think about provenance. People love to know it is directly off the farm.”
She said there were challenges, such as balancing a beef carcase, but it was worthwhile if a farm could figure out how to do it.
Rather than looking at the expense of converting a shed to be suitable as a kitchen, butchery and shop, Mrs Selmes opted for a three-bay modular unit.
“For us, it was the most costeffective way to start a farm shop with minimal outlay. It was minimal work for us,” she said.
Fisher UK, the company behind the modular buildings, was founded by the son of a Yorkshire pig farmer, Jonathan Fisher.
Mr Fisher had returned to the family farm after university, but with the pressure from the decline in the economy and their isolated location, he saw it as essential to diversify the family business.
He had initially seen a gap in the market for modular, relocatable larders for game farms, with the buildings containing plumbing, lighting, wash down and drainage facilities, rather than looking to convert existing buildings.
The company then diversified into processing facilities, allowing them to be used as meat processing units and kitchens.
And now, Mr Fisher said many of their customers were farmers looking to diversify who needed a bespoke building which could be ready to use within hours.
They could also be added to in future, allowing the buildings to grow as the businesses did, which may be more difficult in traditional farm building conversions.
And unlike a shed, they can also be relocated easily.
Mrs Selmes said a big benefit was how easy the building was to clean.
“It meant we were ready to go for Environmental Health,” she said.
Character is often an essential ingredient in a successful farm shop, and Mrs Selmes believed they had managed to create atmosphere in their building.
“You can be really creative in the space. When it came it was very boring, but it is amazing what you can do.”