A Strange Year at the Farm Shop

Tracey's reflections on the challenges of keeping food supplies going through Covid times.

It started a few weeks before the Prime Minister’s announcement. Customers were starting to buy extra items: nothing which you could put your finger on for sure but just enough for us to notice – more rice selling – how many tins of tomatoes are we buying in – more requests for meat to be vac packed to ‘go in the freezer’.

Then the news outlets started making regular announcements on how items were starting to run out in supermarkets. Reports about Covid were growing and rumours of a possible lockdown. We started ordering more from our suppliers to put into store … just in case.

Then the Prime Minister’s announcement came, and we were hit with a tidal wave of customers, even before we opened our doors the next day.

I have worked in customer service for over 20 years in many guises, and can honestly say I have never had to deal with anything similar. We didn’t know what was coming our way, and neither did our suppliers. If we did though, I don’t think it would have helped.

A lot of customers were buying far more than normal, and we were also seeing a lot of new customers as many people didn’t want to go to the main supermarkets.

We restricted how many people came into the shop and, after a period, we faced the next challenge of having to restrict how many of each item one person could buy at one time. Our customers were so understanding, and we really do thank everyone for their kind words and support during this period.

Then we lost some team members – not through Covid directly, but through the challenge of facing that tidal wave each day, not forgetting their own home situations as well. One person left us permanently and others are still dealing with the aftermath of last year. To some degree, in our various ways, I think we are all still recovering.

The new normal slowly took shape and we all got used to it – customers and staff alike. That is where we are now, still not back where we were and to be honest, I some things have probably won’t go back to how they were before.

As a team we have grown closer now than ever before and stand shoulder to shoulder with each other every day to do the best we can in looking after our customers.

I would like to say thank you: thank you to the shop team and all of the other teams on the farm who worked so hard to make sure we had produce in our shop to sell, the farmers, The gardeners, the pie kitchen staff and our farm kitchen team for keeping us all fed. A big thank you also to all our suppliers.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to all of you – our customers – who have supported us throughout this last year, for the lovely comments and support you have given us all, helping us all along the way to get through this most challenging of times.

Tracey Marshall

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