We are excited to launch the first journal in our new ‘Speciality Spotlight’ series – a collection of features that shares the stories of some of our trade customers across the country.
This month, we spoke with Michael Dart from the multi award-winning Dart’s Farm – a Devonshire-based artisan farm shop that’s been selling quality West Country produce for over 40 years. We wanted to find out more about how they’ve adapted their business during a challenging year, the positives they’ve drawn from the experience and what they’ve been doing to support the local community.
Tell us, what have been the biggest changes you’ve made to the Farm since the start of the lockdown?
Well, it’s been a rather crazy few months and we have had to adapt very quickly in an ever-changing environment. We started up an online shop with a national delivery service which went live within a week – we also launched ‘The Shack’, our new outdoor takeaway eatery. Both have been a great success and have changed our overall business model.
How has the farming industry been impacted by COVID-19?
Farming, food production and nature has been one of the only industries that hasn’t been massively affected by the pandemic. Cows have still had to be milked; fresh produce is still growing in the field. The only thing that I would say has changed is people’s perception of it all. It feels like people have reconnected with their roots and realised how important our local food community is. Not only does it supply integral jobs and income for the local community, but it really does taste so much better! Small batch, handcrafted, fresh ingredients – you can’t beat it.
Tell us one of the biggest positives you’ve drawn from the whole experience?
Our team has become even stronger – it really has been the best team building exercise ever!
In what ways has Darts Farm reached out to the local community during this time?
We have supported our community in many different ways, from our ‘Pick-Your-Own’ Sunflowers for Hospicecare to our ‘Maze Maize’ for Estuary League of Friends. However, the two things that stand out for me include looking after the over 70s & vulnerable and our Food Bank service.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the over 70s and the vulnerable were advised to self-isolate and stay at home. With home delivery slots nearly impossible to get, we acted immediately to look after them and launched our free personal shopping and home delivery service in the local area. Within 24 hours, our phones and emails were going crazy! It was an incredible feeling, listening to the overwhelming emotions of the people that we were helping. They were obviously scared but the relief and thanks you could hear in their voices was incredible – we were able to support so many in their time of need!
In terms of the food bank, there is always a bit of banter about where the great ideas come from – obviously I think that they are always mine, but this one really was! I wanted to be able to send a little treat to families in need at Easter – Exeter Food bank had a surge of demand after many had lost their jobs and were struggling. The generosity of our suppliers and customers was overwhelming. We exceeded all expectations and within a few days managed to raise nearly £2,500. As a result, we were able to send ‘Easter Tuck Boxes’ to many more families than we could have ever imagined, so thank you to everyone that helped make that happen.
In addition, over Christmas, we worked with Siena, a 7-year-old girl, who raised money for our food bank by selling her own, handmade Christmas Decorations. She raised a colossal £2,100 from selling her homemade ceramic Christmas decorations, and the team at Darts Farm match funded this with some help from customer donations and supplier gifts to bring the total to an incredible £4,200. With this we were able to deliver 70 Christmas Feast Boxes to families in need.
We’re proud to supply Dart’s Farm with a range of our award-winning sourdough crackers and crispbreads. To see the full range of their craft products, visit their website here.