Beef farmers see explosion in sales as crisis unleashes unprecedented demand
- Credit: Deersbrook Farm
Two weeks after the first lockdown on April 2, 2020, beef farmer Anna Blumfield gave birth to her fourth child, Hudson, on her farm on the Essex/Suffolk border.
At the same time, the family’s butchery and farm shop at Deersbrook Farm in Shalford Green near Braintree was running at full pelt to keep up with unprecedented demand.
Across the country, lockdown and the coronavirus crisis unleashed a wave of new farm shop customers who were keen to buy locally-sourced products.
“The shop was inundated with panic buyers and we had to quickly adapt to orders, collections, deliveries — so much was online too,” she said.
“I have been so proud of my team for powering through — not only getting the job done but doing so with passion and respect for customers.
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“We offered free delivery for local and shielding customers. Many customers sent over shopping lists for us the prepare for them.”
It’s been an eventful year for Anna who is an active member of Ladies in Beef which aims to recognise the UK’s growing numbers of female farmers.
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Great British Beef Week will taking place from April 23 to 30 this year, and she is aiming to promote it heavily. “I’m proud to champion Great British Beef,” she said.
Last year, just a week before lockdown and heavily pregnant she borrowed a neighbour’s thatched barn, hired chef Alan Paton and organised a massive feast for guests.
There has been a “positive side” to lockdown with an increasing customer demand for prepared quality foods, she said. After last year’s boom the farm shop took on a chef to make up home meals and a variety of other foodstuffs.
“This year we are planning a heat-at-home videocast which people can log into and hear our chef Geoff Douglas taking them through the beef-eating experience with the prepared dishes especially designed for Great British beef week,” she said.
“On the farm this spring we are selling our commercial herd of cattle and concentrating all efforts on our native breed of cattle that we sell directly to our lovely customers through our on farm butchery and farm shop as well as a couple of other specialist butchers.”
The farm was among the first in East Anglia to be certified by the Pasture for Life Association back in 2015 for producing 100% grass-fed beef. The family went on to launch a butchery and farm shop on the farm in December 2018 in response to customer demand.
“I’d been doing farmers’ markets and food festivals and it was time grow this side of the farm by building the butchery and farm shop,” explained Anna.
The farm shop business now has a turnover of £250k, employs six people and is thriving, says Anna. She hopes that down the line they might be able to open a restaurant.
The shop sells its own grass-fed beef and rare breed pork and an assortment of local produce from friends across East Anglia including bee keepers, bakers, vegetable growers, oil, crisps, sauce and spice mix makers, dairy farmers, cheese makers, distilleries, brewers and vineyards.
“Coming out the other side, we have grown as a business now stocking even more fabulous local produce and employed a chef to make heat at home meals, fresh counter items, breads and chocolate brownies,” said Anna.
Expansion continues as chef Geoff Douglas broadens his range of prepared meal and delicatessen items which include scotch eggs, ham hock terrines, wild garlic arancini and venison stew with tarragon dumplings.