Richard and Caroline Haddock opened Churston Traditional Farm Shop in 2007 and now welcome around 2,000 people a week to their multi award-winning farm shop, café and garden centre, near Brixham in South Devon.
With seven major supermarkets in the local area, the farming couple face significant competition. The secret to their success is in offering something completely different from the big retailers.
“Whatever you can’t find in the supermarkets, you can find it here,” explains Richard. “It was always our aim to sell local produce. Fifty-five per cent of what we sell comes from the South Hams and a further 33 per cent comes from Devon, Cornwall and just into Somerset.”
The shop shelves are stocked with locally-made jams, chutneys, beers and ciders, while the fridges are packed full of the region’s best cheeses, cream and sweet and savoury treats.
The centrepiece is the butcher’s counter, which offers grass-fed dry aged beef and Poll Dorset lamb from the Haddocks’ own farm. The locally-reared pork and chicken, which is supplied by local farmers, has been fed on barley grown at the farm.
A new UV light system, enables the business to hang beef for up to 100 days, producing dry aged meat with a depth of flavour and no shrinkage when it cooks.
While the team is currently focusing on packaging prime cuts ready for Christmas, the ethos is on whole carcass utilisation and reducing waste.
“The dream was to go from conception to consumption with minimum waste,” says Richard. “We produce all the breeding stock right the way through to what people eat.”
The couple pride themselves on their commitment to recycling and minimising food wastage. Currently all cardboard, plastic and aluminium is recycled and only 45kg of waste is thrown away each week.
Most of the meat and any surplus vegetables are turned into ready meals, cakes or savoury items for the shop or café. Even waste fat is used to make fat balls for garden birds – one of the shop’s bestsellers.
The deli counter is piled high with a wide selection of pies, quiches, sausage rolls, pasties and pates, all prepared on site. The shop also sells a wide selection of cakes, including lemon meringue pie, bread pudding, cheesecake, banoffee pie and Victoria sponge, many of which are baked according to Caroline’s old family recipes.
The growing selection of ready meals, blast-frozen roast potatoes, glazed parsnips, stuffing balls and bubble and squeak, are all produced by the shop’s in-house chefs, using produce from the farm and local suppliers.
“We supply ourselves and that’s something we’re proud of,” says Richard. “Everything is produced and processed on site. The supermarkets are not doing what we do. Ready meals are very convenient for young families with both parents working, but we know that kids are getting problems from eating lots of additives and preservatives. We don’t want to contribute to that problem so we don’t add those to our food.”
The business’ reputation has excelled as a family-friendly destination, offering locally sourced produce and meals. The café is best known for its Sunday Roast and Farmers Breakfast.
Despite the diversification of the business, Richard describes himself as a farmer as well as an entrepreneur. He says he still likes to “get behind the wheel of the tractor, just to get away from it all” on the farm.
Richard grew up on a farm in Somerset and after he met his wife, Caroline Moore, an international show jumping and dressage champion, the couple needed land for horses. This eventually led to them setting up their own farm and Richard becoming the NFU’s Head of Livestock for England and Wales.
It was then that Richard started travelling to Brussels and other parts of Europe and recognised the need to diversify. “I had the chance to see farmers doing things differently there,” he says. “I could see where our farmers were losing money.”
After securing planning permission, the couple opened the purpose-built farm shop in 2007 with the café and garden centre following five years later. “The only retail experience we’d had was selling boxes of beef from the farm, so it was a big learning curve,” he says. “And we’re still learning. We’re always looking at ways to improve things. I love walking round the shop, listening to the customers and finding out what they want.”
Richard and Caroline moved the insurance for their farm and growing business to Cornish Mutual in 2014. “Our insurance costs were going up so we moved to Cornish Mutual who were cheaper and offered a better product,” he says.
Since becoming a Cornish Mutual Member, the farm shop has had to make two claims, one as a result of a lightning strike on the telephone exchange, which took out the shop’s tills and telephones, and the other after a boiler burst. “On both occasions, our priority was to keep the shop open,” he says. “Cornish Mutual encouraged us to do what we needed to do to stay open.
“Cornish Mutual have been very good to us. They know us well and we work as a team. If we need anything, they just get it sorted. They do a good job for us.”
“As they have grown and developed their business ventures, Richard and Caroline have remained absolutely committed to promoting and selling local produce,” says Cornish Mutual Field Force Inspector Janet Pryor. “Their shop is a true showcase of local products and offers a really different range from what you can get anywhere else.
“Their success is the result of the quality of what they sell, but also to the experience they provide to customers. Caroline and Richard throw themselves into their business and are also committed to supporting the local community. It’s a real pleasure to support them - they work so hard and deserve their success.”
“The South West has always been different,” Richard adds. “We are so passionate about our food. Holidaymakers come to the shop and tell us they have nothing like this where they live. We’ve got Salcombe Gin, Cornish Brie and lots of breweries. Entrepreneurs are coming to the Westcountry to set up food and drink businesses, so we’re getting something right.
“A lot of people say they buy local. The truth is that they only buy local when the price is right. It’s tough times out there and people are watching every penny.”
“If people really want to buy local, they need to see that their food is not just processed here, but actually grown or bred, fed and slaughtered here in the Westcountry. That’s the real meaning of local food.”