Churston Farm Shop thriving through a difficult anniversary
- Credit: Churston Traditional Farm Shop
It was just over a year ago that it all began in Torbay - although nobody knew just how bad it was going to be.
The resort recorded its first positive Covid case linked to Churston Ferrers Grammar School.
Caught in the middle of a fast-developing national and international story was the little Churston Traditional Farm Shop, as the general public began to realise the enormity of a global crisis literally arriving on our doorsteps.
The flexibility and ingenuity of local businesses has been one of the few high points in a tumultuous year and the team at Churston Farm Shop has thankfully endured to a point where they can now look forward to a brighter future.
“The school came back from a skiing trip in Italy on the Sunday and I remember rumours beginning to emerge on the Monday,” said Caroline Haddock, owner of the Churston Traditional Farm Shop.
“Some of the teachers and older students would use our café, when it was open, and the concerns were growing even more on the Tuesday.
“The local Vicar had also met the school to welcome the back from Italy and news then sadly broke of positive cases at the school, as well as the church, and we are positioned right in the middle.
“For those initial three weeks, everyone was frightened and nobody would come near us.
“There was no real knowledge of what was happening and a lot of scaremongering, which obviously had a devastating impact on the business.
“We went from a very good turnover in a quiet part of the year to virtually zero. We were told there would be an announcement in the third week, which is when the full lockdown was introduced.
“The café immediately closed but we took the decision to keep all the staff on, and they did a full deep clean to get everything prepared.
“We laid off nobody, no furlough, just shuffled things around. We did lose a couple of staff, who were slightly older and understandably wanted to stay at home.
“Delivery had always been a small part of the business, so we ramped that side of things up to a new level and we survived through the first lockdown by delivering.
“It took a while to get used to this new way of working but we all worked hard, starting at 6am and finishing at 8pm.
“The chefs in the kitchen downsized in certain areas, we spoke to various suppliers and generally adapted to a new reality. It was hard work and long hours.
“Whatever we couldn’t purchase locally, we literally went foraging to find, but we managed because it is all our own meats and we had the support of the community.
“Unfortunately, the second lockdown saw a lot of Government help for the supermarkets but nothing for farm shops or corner shops.
“Local businesses kept people going through the first lockdown and the culture of buying local was wonderful to see. A lot of new businesses emerged through necessity.
“Most of the supermarkets have closed their deli counters but we stayed open, and the garden centre also kept going.
“Things were different in the second lockdown, so we adapted again, and Christmas turned out to be a successful period.
“More people came out to do their shopping and we found their habits had changed. We’re finding that things are nice and steady at the moment.
“People bought their Christmas meats, although a lot of joints went in the freezer. We changed our turkeys for Christmas, boned and rolled them to sell in two or three joints, as well as selling a lot of beef.
“For our business, it has been a case of being nimble on our feet and getting on with the circumstances.
“The shop remains steady, we’re hopeful that the garden centre will pick up as the weather changes and the café will be open in May.”
Times have also changed for her farmer husband and well-known local figure Richard Haddock.
After 45 years he is no longer farming as he needs two new hips. They now have several local farms producing meat and some veg for them. When the hips have been replaced they may get another farm, but as they have no children by choice, Richard has semi retired and Caroline is driving the Farm Shop retail side forward