Impeccable customer care combined with first-rate farming and business skills are what marked Kevin Stokes out as a winner in this impressively represented category.
Focused on quality and service, Kevin’s efforts to ensure value is handed back to customers has not only meant he has successfully taken on large retailers as the place for locals to do their weekly shop, but also placed the farm at the heart of the community.
Starting out in 1983 selling 1.2ha of potatoes from the farm’s garage, Kevin’s passion for growing crops and a keen interest in the latest agronomy has ensured he produces top-quality food, which has attracted a strong customer base.
Farm facts: Farndon Fields Farm Shop
- 222ha split into potatoes, vegetables, Christmas trees, wheat rape and oats
- Sequential planting to ensure crops sold in the shop throughout the year
- Farm is in an ELS agreement
Expanding the farm hand-in-hand with Farndon Fields Farm Shop, Kevin and his wife Milly now boast a 222ha unit, as well as a retail destination which includes a café, deli, butchery and plant centre.
All of the 40 varieties of fruit and vegetables grown on the farm are sold through the shop, with Kevin keen to ensure his 3,500 weekly customers understand, through impressive displays and educational signage, how the farm is linked to their shopping.
- Professional approach to the whole business with clear understanding of his market
- Excellent production standards
- Impressive linking of the farm to the shop
- Commitment to educating others about farming
His passion for teaching people about agriculture extends from the store through his regular visits to local schools and his role as an ambassador for the British Potato Council, which sees him talk to the media and at events and shows about growing potatoes.
“Our story is the link to the farm,” he says. “We grow what we can and the varieties of what we grow and sell are decided by customer demand and feedback.
“We are always looking at what we can add to the shop and how to push the farm connection. It’s dead easy to buy from a supplier, the hard bit is to farm it. Luckily I’m still passionate about growing things, so it all works well.”
Anything Kevin cannot produce on the farm for the shop is sourced from local farmers; milk, bread and cakes come from local producers.
Many of the supply agreements were first started almost 30 years ago, with Kevin’s commitment to fairness and building good relationships testament to the fact his suppliers have remained with him.
This commitment goes throughout the business. Kevin holds weekly meetings with staff so they can analyse margins, understand the direction the business is taking, and see what needs to be worked on.
“Kevin’s commitment to producing the best and offering his customers an excellent service, combined with strong leadership and management skills that engender a strong team effort, make him a worthy winner of this award”
Colin Dennis, independent judge
This level of trust, shared responsibility and an investment in developing skills through training may be the reason that many employees – including the office manager, who started out as a sales girl – have remained with the business throughout their careers.
By employing local people and working with the non-farming community in his educational roles, Kevin has got to know his market well, creating price strategies that enable customers to find it both convenient and within their budgets.
“It’s not about being the cheapest, but making sure when it comes to value, service and everything else, we’re best.”
In our experience of working with more than 500 local producers, commitment, energy and motivation are the hallmarks of success. These finalists have those qualities in abundance”
Pearce Hughese, agricultural development manager
Cwmcerrig Farm Shop, Camarthenshire
The best of Wales is showcased on Cwmcerrig Farm, from the meat produced on its 100ha beef and sheep unit to the fresh produce and processed food made and sold in the farm shop, which employs 21 Watkins family members.
Andrew and Maria Henshaw
Mainsgill Farm Shop, East Layton, Richmond
Drive, determination and passion have helped Andrew and Maria Henshaw create a hugely successful farm and shop from scratch. With 3,000 paying customers a week, Mainsgill Farm has become a tourist destination in its own right.
Keep up todat with all the news from the 2012 Farmers Weekly Awards.