Rapid growth of farm shop proves value of business diversity

Rob and Becca Hirst at Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe in Ormesby St Margaret

Rob and Becca Hirst at Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe in Ormesby St Margaret - Credit: Denise Bradley

A rapidly-growing Norfolk farm shop now earns a third of the revenue for a multi-faceted family firm - illustrating the value of business diversity in turbulent times. 

Hirst's Farm Shop, run by Rob and Becca Hirst at Ormesby near Great Yarmouth, opened an enlarged shop and cafe building last May.

And a year later its contribution to the turnover of the family business has grown from about 5pc to 33pc.

It is part of an established diversification strategy which has already added the Hirsty's Family Fun Park at Hemsby to the mixed farm's arable and livestock ventures.

The fun park is due to reopen for the summer on July 23, while the farm shop and cafe are also preparing for seasonal income by introducing a summer menu including tapas-style "grazing slates", and a new range of barbecue products.

A summer tapas-style grazing slate at Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe at Ormesby St Margaret

A summer tapas-style grazing slate at Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe at Ormesby St Margaret - Credit: Denise Bradley

Mr Hirst said the broad range of revenue streams had made the farm business more resilient within a volatile economy which has seen high wheat prices offset by soaring fuel, fertiliser and animal feed costs.

Meanwhile, it is also better able to ride out the uncertainties of the weather and the cost-of-living pressures on its retail and leisure customers.

"We are a diversified farm but I never think there will be a year when everything is at its greatest potential," he said.

"This year the arable cropping will take the upper edge and the shop may suffer from people tightening their belt. But for the last two years, through Covid, it has been the flip side.

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"So I don't think there will ever be a time when everything is booming. It could be the weather that could hamper our outdoor attractions or the cropping. There is nothing that really gives us a guarantee, but the diversity gives us a better chance that something will be making money."

The shop stocks the farm's own meat and it has also brought in the Dabs n Crabs fishmongers' business.

Rob and Becca Hirst at Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe in Ormesby St Margaret

Rob and Becca Hirst at Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe in Ormesby St Margaret - Credit: Denise Bradley

Mr Hirst said, so far, sales of these premium products have kept growing despite the cost of living crisis.

"Some things have gone up but we need to be careful we don't price ourselves out of the market," he said.

"We are still competitive with the supermarkets, and we keep selling out. It shows that people are still spending money on premium products."

Rob and Becca Hirst with head chef Amber Barnes at the Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe in Ormesby St Margaret

Rob and Becca Hirst with head chef Amber Barnes at the Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe in Ormesby St Margaret - Credit: Denise Bradley