Lydford Farm Shop Devon owner Marcia Vanstone talking with customer

Farms and rural businesses adapt during pandemic

South West insurer Cornish Mutual says that many of the region’s farms and rural businesses are making long-term changes as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many farms and rural businesses have adapted during the pandemic by making changes to the way they market their produce, whether it is farms selling direct to customers online, cafes offering takeaways, or farm shops running a delivery service.

What began as a response to a crisis has revealed new ways of operating, that may otherwise not have been considered, and as a result, some are now considering the benefits of making those changes long term.

“We’ve been amazed by our Members’ ingenuity over recent months,” says Claire Longman, Technical Leader for South West rural insurer Cornish Mutual. “Many of them had to make changes very quickly to keep their businesses going. A number have also provided a valuable service to the local community by getting food out to those who were shielding.”

One example is Lydford Farm Shop, on the edge of Dartmoor in West Devon, where owner Marcia Vanstone has been offering a delivery service in the local area.

Committed to supporting local farmers and food producers, it stocks a wide range of vegetables, meat and dairy products, from the surrounding area. It also sells homemade pasties, sausage rolls and pies, using beef from Marcia and her husband’s family farm.

Marcia had recently invested in a van for her second business, which caters for events. With that business temporarily on hold, she is using the van to deliver food to those who have been unable to visit the shop. Offering this service has helped her to meet the needs of existing customers, while also attracting new people who were looking for a food delivery service.

“All the way through, we have been focusing on supporting our loyal customers,” Marcia says. “We have also gained new customers who wanted somewhere local that could deliver or a shop where they could feel safe. We will continue delivering for as long as the demand is there.”

Marcia’s experience is by no means unique, according to Claire, who adds: “Like Lydford Farm Shop, many of the businesses we insure can see benefits to continuing with some of the changes they have introduced.

“We are asking our Members to keep us updated with any changes so that we can ensure their insurance offers the correct cover.

“In many cases, the existing insurance can adapt to reflect the new ways of working, but if a farm or business is making a more significant change or planning an ambitious diversification project, we will look at this in more detail and draw up new policies if necessary.

“For any new areas of activity, including purchasing new equipment or holding more stock on site, farm and business owners will need to review their insurance cover and health and safety practices.   It is recommended that farm and business owners follow the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) advice on risk assessments, to ensure the safety of employees and members of the public.  

“However you are adapting and whatever changes you are making – however small – keeping your insurer up to date will help ensure you protect your business, employees and customers.”

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