Farm shop plans expansion after Covid-19 saves it from closure
- Credit: Hirst family
A resurgent Norfolk farm shop, which almost closed before last year's lockdown sales boom, has now submitted plans for an ambitious expansion.
The Hirst family, which owns the farm on North Road in Ormesby St Margaret, near Great Yarmouth, has applied for permission to convert a redundant building, previously used as a kitchen and shower block for seasonal workers, into an expanded farm shop and cafe.
The project would increase the size of the existing shop three-fold, allowing it to recruit new staff and capitalise on the increased demand for locally-sourced food and drink, said the family.
And it could improve the resilience of a rural business which also includes a mixed farming enterprise and the Hirsty's Family Fun Park at Hemsby - both very weather-dependent sources of income.
Robert Hirst, who runs the shop with his wife Becca, said the family discussed closing their tiny outlet a year ago to focus on the fun park as its busy Easter period loomed - until the Covid-19 pandemic turned everything on its head.
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"Within two weeks of having that discussion, we had been locked down and the supermarkets were not able to stock the shelves, but we had our beef and lamb for sale and Becca was cooking non-stop doing ready meals," he said. "It all grew from there.
"The tables turned. Suddenly the farm park shut and the farm shop was booming. If it was not for Covid we wouldn't be looking to do any more, but that gave us the confidence to keep going.
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"The reason for the big move is for the last 12 months we have been cooking in our kitchen but it has got to the point where we want our house back. To start with it was in a spare room downstairs when we renovated our house but we have moved beyond that now.
"It is a huge step for us. We need to broaden our product range, we are putting in a commercial kitchen and we would like to have an open-fronted cafe looking out over the farm. In April we will be into lambing and calving and we want to create a really nice experience for young and old to come out to the farm."
Mr Hirst said, if permission is granted by Great Yarmouth Borough Council, he hopes the new shop could be open by Easter.