CHRISTMAS TREES

First tree of 2020 delivered to Perrott Hill School

This year we will have been selling LOCALLY GROWN Christmas Trees for 50 years.

Today the first tree of 2020 was delivered to Perrott Hill School. Hopefully the boarders will have great fun decorating it tonight.

All tree are grown on the Blackdown Hills, are fresh cut and delivered to us weekly. Larger trees are cut to order.

Needle fast varieties; Nordman and Fraser Firs from Sat 28th November

Traditional; Norway Fir from 7th December.

Limited number of small potted trees, Nordman and Blue Spruce

Mistletoe cut from our own orchards.

Hand made wreaths

Please check out our 2020 prices by clicking here

50th APPLE DAY Celebrations

(Provisionally ) 10th – 18th October 2020

Like so many other public gatherings, we have had to look carefully at Government recommendations and whether or not we can hold our normal Apple Day celebrations in 2020. It is a great shame but we have decided that we cannot use our normal format and so we need to scale back for a year. Further salt in the wound is that our farm shop was built in 1970 and this year would have been the 50th anniversary. We wont be sitting back and doing nothing!

The primary problems are space and numbers. We are currently limiting the number of people in our shop to ensure social distancing and in such circumstances, it would be difficult to provide a viable weekend for exhibitors at Art in the Barn, so the barns will be empty this year. Instead, we will be trying to spread out other activities over a week and try to avoid crowds and/or queuing. At the same time, we will be doing our best to promote our usual exhibitors online and give details about how you can still view and purchase their works of art.

Rather than concentrating on one weekend, we will be spreading the love of apples over a longer time-frame. This will mean a permanent display of apples over a week and hopefully a range of food to taste each day. Nearer the time we will announce any special activities such as children’s entertainment, tractor rides and ploughing demonstrations, if the weather allows.

Anyone wanting specific apple advice from Jonathan may have to book an appointment via facebook nearer the time. October is still a busy time of the year on the farm and we will be harvesting cider apples and pressing fruit every day, which represents a problem in how much we can organise at the same time. Concentrating Apple Day into one weekend was a much easier task!

Please keep an eye on www.facebook.com/farmshop for announcements nearer the time.

Pick Your Own

Today is the day we finally earn our ranking at the top of the Google search list for “Local PYO”.

VISTABELLA apples are ready to eat and are looking rather good this year, having enjoyed the sun in May & June. A light crop, so don’t expect the boughs to be creaking under the load and as ever, picked fruit is available in the farm shop.

As with most early varieties, Vistabella is sharp with a melt-in the-mouth texture, rather than the firmer fleshed apples that ripen later in the autumn. Melon-like, the flavour seems to be excellent this year.

Next in line will be George Cave, which is contrast is heaving with apples, so expect this variety to be on the small side this year. Hopefully ready from next week.

Find out more about our PYO here

Web Shop Development

As the country gradually loosens from lock-down, we are looking to plan for the next stage of change for our business. We have already welcomed back many old friends and customers, some of whom have not visited us for over 2 months. During that time we have taken orders by phone and email and relied on volunteers to deliver to vulnerable homes on a weekly basis. While there is no certainty that CoronaVirus is behind us yet, it is clear that changes are upon us again, with less reliance on weekly food deliveries and even questions about when our Coffee Shop will open again? Changes in any business need careful planning to ensure we address our customer need, look after our staff and maintain a sustainable business. One area that we have identified, is to build on the changes that were impressed on us because of the CoronaVirus lock-down. That is that many of our existing customers currently prefer to phone or email us with grocery orders, either for delivery or collection, in a minimal contact fashion, thereby keeping themselves safer from infection. We are also aware of new customers that have found us during the crisis and existing customers who have used us more often or for a greater proportion of their needs. Being open 8 hours a day and 7 days a week is no longer enough to keep everyone’s attention. When we closed our Garden Centre and Coffee Shop on 23rd March, it didn’t take long for customers to move online and our first attempt at satisfying customer demand for compost and bedding plants was “clunky” but functional,, later becoming overrun with demand. It was clear that a proper, integrated system was required to be able to match actual stock levels in the shop with what we were offering for sale on line. Sales were easy, matching supply to demand was impossible and is still proving difficult as many nurseries and warehouses are now empty and the inertia required to match supply with demand not yet gathered steam. The answer seems to be a web shop that links with the stock levels on our electronic tills (Electronic Point of Sale, or EPOS as it’s know in the trade). We now have a web shop that has been functioning successfully for Garden Centre Sales for a few weeks and it is now being extended to the whole farm shop. This will take time……….. Stock lines and stock levels can be imported quite quickly. Shockingly we currently have 7,000 stock lines that were active in the last 3 years and at least 1,500 active at any one time (plants take up a lot of these numbers). EPOS stores only 25 character descriptions, many are almost indecipherable and need editing to make sense. Then there is a short and long description, categories, sub categories and sub sub categories but worst of all, photos. Thousands of photos and it all takes time, a lot of time, mostly in the evenings. It wont be finished any time soon (if ever) but we hope that by next weekend it will be functional enough for customers to make an order at leisure, from the comfort of their own home and collect or receive a delivery on a predetermined day. The aim is to merge this slowly with the services we currently offer and for it to add to the service we offer, not to replace any part of it.

One of the most common exclamations we hear on a daily basis (twice today, since you ask) is “I never knew you stocked that!”. The disadvantage of shopping by phone or email is that customers cannot see the range of produce we stock or the choice within the type of food they are looking for. The internet facilitates this and we have tried to arrange our web shop as if it is a shopping list, so you see all the related items on each shelf. In the shop we have a “Village Shop” section which has been included in the online inventory but with the choice to view just Farm Shop or just Village Shop produce. This is partly why we have so much stock!

There are no immediate plans to be delivering produce outside our locality (although that might be something for the future) and for the moment we will be concentrating on making our business more attractive to customers new and old, who want the convenience of being able to shop at home after a busy day at work and be able to collect their shopping locally (out of normal hours if necessary) or continue to have their shopping delivered if living in a vulnerable household. Internet shopping might not be for everyone but so far we have been surprised by how customers have taken to it willingly, if only to ensure that they don’t waste a shopping trip by knowing that their important items are available and have been reserved for them before they arrive.

It is likely to take another week to get all our stock online and with photos attached, so please keep coming back to see how everything is progressing. The final and most difficult stage will be ensuring that fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are listed in a usable format to be attractive to customers and realistic for us to be able to supply.

Happy shopping 🙂

Shortage of Bedding Plants

The Garden Centre industry is very seasonal and the Coronavirus lock-down came at possibly the worst time of year to disrupt spring plant production. In mid March, all the signals were there to suggest that the UK would have to reduce the movement of people in a similar way to what we were seeing in Italy and throughout Europe. When the lock-down was announced on the Friday before it was to start, it was clear that all retail stores that were not primarily selling groceries or hardware, would be shut. Shut if not indefinitely, then at least until the end of August, which was as far as the Government’s furlough was planned to last. That appeared to signal the end of the spring and summer plant sales.

While most work was meant to continue, from home if no longer at the office, those producing perishable goods had to close immediately and furlough their staff. This included almost all plant nurseries. The National Press gave good coverage to the plight of nurseries who had stock ready to sell that might only last weeks before having to be thrown away. Bedding plant nurseries stopped sowing seeds and locked-down, assuming that the spring would be written off.

A few weeks later, it became clear that online retailers were allowed to continue to sell and that Garden Centres could continue to sell to the public providing the plants were either delivered to customers directly or collected from the door, in what has become known as Click & Collect.

Garden Centres with an on-line presence were swamped and others, like ourselves, scrambled to either man the phones or build an instant web shop or order lists. This took a few weeks to get off the ground but when it did, the nurseries were caught off guard. They scrambled to get re-started but already, the important weeks of production had been lost.

A combination of beautiful weather and so many people being confined to their gardens meant that demand for compost, bedding plants and shrubs went sky high. All of a sudden, the two weeks that had passed left bedding plant nurseries sold out of their early crop and with nothing coming on behind to replace them.

Stocks of bedding plants are now low and it is likely to be 2 or 3 weeks before there is the availability that we would normally expect at this time of year. By then it may be too late for many to consider planting bedding?

Luckily, there is a plentiful supply of shrubs and perennial plants that have built up in the good weather and are now in full flower and waiting to be bought.

Please don’t expect this spring to be quite the same as normal but as supply lines get back to normal, Garden Centres should have a plenty of shrubs & perennials and this year should be a vintage summer in the garden after all the effort people have put in to their gardening so far.

PLANT CENTRE RE-OPENS

According to Government advice, we have re-organised our site to allow for safe access and social distancing.

The main changes involve reversing our previous one-way system through the farm shop so that now customers enter the plant area from the car park and queue (if necessary) at the door to what was the coffee shop. When you get to position one in the queue, you can start to shop for fruit but must wait for a member of staff to give you the all clear to proceed further. There is a bell to attract our attention.

We have moved the tills so there is now a Click & Collect till by the Holy Cow Milk Machine. There is no access to the shop but if you have pre-ordered on the website or you are collecting bread or newspapers only, then this access will mean you avoid a queue for the shop, if there is one.

Signage is temporary at the moment and as we find out what information is missing, we will then get some made professionally.

Day one went well with a few teething problems and some useful and encouraging comments. Thank you all for your patience.

Social Distancing

We are currently operating slightly differently to try and abide with guidelines for social distancing.

  • Please look out for tape marked chevrons on the floor.
  • Chevrons indicate 1m distance and the preferred direction of travel.
  • Please keep 2 chevrons apart!
  • Please complete you shopping as quickly as possible, especially if there are others waiting to come in.
  • We are only allowing 2 people into the shop at once. There are often at least 4 members of staff present as well, so please give them room to move around the shop safely while they are picking orders.
  • We are currently closing at 4pm every day. This is to give us extra time to pack orders. It is very difficult to pack orders and serve customers at the same time.

Click & Collect

From 23rd March, the Government has closed all garden centres to the public but continues to allow sales, providing they are click & collect or for delivery.

Because we are prioritising fulfilling essential food orders for vulnerable households (and walk in shopping for those who are able to), we have directed all garden centre orders through our website.

Demand for compost and bedding plants in particular are outstripping supply, so please be patient and help us keep to government guidelines on social distancing and essential supplies.

Thank you for your patience.