Farm shop crowned national retail champion of the year

Sally Bendall receiving the trophy from sponsors Lakeland Computers. Hollow Trees Farm Shop at Semer

Sally Bendall receiving the trophy from sponsors Lakeland Computers. Hollow Trees Farm Shop at Semer, near Hadleigh, scooped the 2016 National Farmers� Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) Retail Champion of the Year title. - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk farm shop is celebrating after being crowned national champions at an awards event.

Sally Bendall and the Hollow Trees Farm Shop team with their fork trophy after scooping the 2016 Nat

Sally Bendall and the Hollow Trees Farm Shop team with their fork trophy after scooping the 2016 National Farmers Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) Retail Champion of the Year title. - Credit: Archant

Hollow Trees Farm Shop at Semer, near Hadleigh, scooped the 2016 National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) Retail Champion of the Year title yesterday at the trade body’s annual conference.

The business, which also scooped the FARMA Large Farm Shop award was praised by judges for its “amazing integrity” under owners Sally and Robert Bendall.

“Hollow Trees Farm does everything that retailing in a farm shop or market needs and it does it extremely well,” said the judges.

“The judges found the leadership shown by Sally and Robert across the business ensures that the team of staff share their values in providing great product and service with amazing integrity. Sally’s additional work to champion the farming sector and education was also noted as a way in which she is a true leader and one which farm retaining businesses large or small can learn from.”

Sally Bendall receiving the trophy from sponsors Lakeland Computers. Hollow Trees Farm Shop at Semer

Sally Bendall receiving the trophy from sponsors Lakeland Computers. Hollow Trees Farm Shop at Semer, near Hadleigh, scooped the 2016 National Farmers� Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) Retail Champion of the Year title. - Credit: Archant

The 140-acre Hollow Trees Farm aims to create unique opportunities that allow access to agriculture for all, through food, fun and adventure, education and employment.

It produces vegetables, beef, pork and lamb, eggs and plants. What began as a roadside cart has, over nearly 30 years, grown into a farm shop, butchery, delicatessen, plant centre and farm trail. The farm also offers an all year round programme of education and entertainment.

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“All parts of this long running, but still expanding business are very well run with the staff really involved in creating the atmosphere and feel of the place. All of the many different activities seem to complement each other, showcasing their own produce, local produce and the countryside as a whole,” judges said.

Mrs Bendall said they were “genuinely surprised” but delighted to receive the award.

“Food, farming ,education and fun is what we really enjoy doing every day at Hollow Trees Farm so to be chosen by industry experts from a shortlist of the top farm retailers in the country is a great testament to, and reward for all the hard work and enthusiasm of everyone in the team,” she said.

“Whether they work out on the farm, in the shop, coffee shop or in the office they all contribute to the success of the business.”

The winners were announced on the final day of a three day event at The Queens Hotel, Chester. The annual conference included several tours around Chester looking at a number of farm shops in the area as well as Chester Zoo, the trade show, a number of talks from leading farm retailers as well as a butchery skills competition and an inspiring yet lively debate on customer loyalty.

The Farm Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) has showcased the best farm retailers across the UK through the annual FARMA awards for the past 15 years. Newmarket-based Michael Mack of Savills, the managing agent for FARMA, said: “The FARMA awards are a fantastic way to reward our members for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. The awards are presented at the end of an educational and inspiring three day members conference and trade show, which is a wonderful way to celebrate their passion to promote food grown and sold by the same hands.”