Hollow Trees Farm stands by stance of not allowing visitors to bring their food into its café

Hollow Trees

Hollow Trees - Credit: Archant

The owner of a Suffolk farm shop last night defended the complex’s policy of asking visitors not to eat their own food in its café.

The move has come after young mother Natalie Whiting, 34, claimed she was told she could not feed 10-month-old daughter Florence from a small pouch of baby food at Hollow Trees farm, shop and café complex in Semer.

Mrs Whiting said that after going shopping she decided to give Florence her lunch, but as she was feeding her daughter pre-prepared food from a sealed pouch she was told by a café worker that she was not allowed to use anything not bought in the café.

“We had done some shopping and spent more than £25,” she said. “I bought some meat, cakes and granola and then, as it was mid-day, we decided to stay for lunch and feed the children.

“We went up to the counter – I ordered a tuna and cheese melt and a cup of green tea – and then sat at a table. The place wasn’t very busy.

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“The next thing is that the waitress who brings our drinks says ‘We don’t allow people to do that – it is for health and safety reasons’.

“I couldn’t believe what she was saying and told her Florence was a 10-month-old baby.

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“But she insisted that it was not allowed – I decided that I wasn’t going to stop giving Florence the rest of her food so carried on.”

Mrs Whiting’s husband Jon, 36, wrote to the farm saying he did not agree with the policy and the café did not have everything needed for a baby on its menu.

In a written reply to him, farm boss Sally Bendall said she was sorry his wife had a negative experience there.

“I understand from the waitress involved that she followed standard procedure in that she relayed our policy to your wife and her friend for future reference, not to stop them feeding the children on this occasion,” she said.

“We are a farm inviting the public in their thousands onto the site to touch animals, eat food and we are acutely aware of inherent risks this brings with it. We have always strived to offer a safe environment underpinned by the need to comply with food safety laws.

“Having tried in the past to put an age limit on our policy it became impossible and so we have reluctantly drawn what appears to be a harsh line.”

Hollow Trees Farm’s policy on picnicking says it has a picnic area on its farm trail and it is only the coffee shop where “own food” is not allowed.

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