The coronavirus outbreak has been a bittersweet experience for the Sealey family who farm at Fossil Farm, in Dorset.
The crisis has seen the catering arm of their business collapse overnight, but their online farm shop has taken off in a manner they would never have thought possible. They now run the business in partnership with their son, James.
Eric and Liz Sealey set up Jurassic Coast Meats in 2008 to supply English rose veal reared on the farm as well as grass-fed, free-range beef to hotels, pubs and restaurants.
They employ four full-time butchers – and one part-time – hand-preparing meat to individual customer’s specific requirements.
The online business, which was set up two years ago, specialises in selling their own grass-fed, free-range Aberdeen Angus beef, which is reared on their family farm.
The decision to set up an online delivery service has proved a godsend.
But since the coronavirus outbreak began, the catering arm of their business has “ground to a halt”, James said. “We supply two to three Spar shops and a couple of farm shops with produce. That has pretty much stopped.”
However, the Sealeys have tapped into the demand for online orders on their website – jurassiccoastfarmshop.co.uk – and expanded their range by offering other locally-sourced foods, including meats, fruit and vegetables as well as “cupboard essentials” such as teas, breads, pastas, milk and fresh fish.
The Sealeys have four vans and deliver foods to the whole of Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire – and they also use a courier service to deliver to other areas across the UK, such as London.
In the past three weeks, they have taken five years’ worth of online sales, said James, 36, co-owner of Jurassic Coast Meats.
An extra three staff members have been recruited to pack and deliver orders to accommodate this massive increase in home deliveries.
“It’s the perfect time in a crisis situation where customers have actually turned to using local suppliers,” said James.
“The first place where the supplies fell short was all the supermarkets, but all the local producers and farm shops have been able to pick up the pieces and keep getting work.
“It shows the demand and need for British producers instead of relying on foreign and imported produce.”
Eric and Liz Sealey took on the tenancy of Fossil Farm, at Winfrith Newburgh, 35 years ago. They manage a herd of 250 Aberdeen Angus cattle.
Farmers Weekly is getting behind the #FeedtheNation campaign to back UK farmers working flat out to produce safe, affordable and reliable food to feed the nation during the coronavirus crisis.
With our partners, we are raising public awareness of this campaign by highlighting the actions farmers are taking to get food to consumers.