The CLA member growing a flourishing farm shop

The CLA’s Sarah Wells-Gaston finds out how a farm shop and café is thriving alongside a family farm business in Gloucestershire
Wick Street farm shop
The farm shop at Wick Street Farm sells seasonal produce from the farm and other local producers

Wick Street Farm, in the heart of the Five Valleys in Gloucestershire, is a cattle and sheep farm hosting seasonal pop-ups, as well as being home to WILD café.

The farm shop and café is the brainchild of Ellie Dangerfield, who previously worked for a local design company after studying art and photography at college but found balancing a full-time job and helping on the farm challenging.

She says: “I always wanted to be on the farm rather than in an office, especially with my involvement and management of the animals. After six years I decided to jump into working on the farm full time.”

Having already organised a pop-up Christmas shop - which she describes as a “tiny pallet shed on the side of the lane” - Ellie launched a business that allowed her to maintain her link to the farm.

She explains: “I started with the idea of having a shop on the farm. We were in a good location for people from the local towns and surrounding area, and we got really positive comments from the Christmas pop-up shop. From there we started selling lamb boxes, and we realised that people liked buying local produce from our animals because they knew where it came from.”

A growing business

A few years on, the venture has grown from a shop on the side of the road to a barn filled with local produce, as well as an online shop.

“It’s come a long way,” says Ellie. “I can’t believe we’ve gone from having a little horsebox café in the summer to having a shop and café. When I started this journey, I wanted to financially support myself so I could do farm work for enjoyment rather than worry that I couldn’t work on the farm full time. The café and farm shop allow me to have free time to look after the animals.”

The café and shop follow a seasonal ethos and offers an educational element, which Ellie believes is key to its success.

“We sell as much local produce as possible because it’s important for people to know where their food and drink is coming from. Stocking seasonal produce means we can support farms within a five-mile radius by allowing them to sell their vegetables, meat, eggs, cheese, flowers, ice cream and locally roasted coffee to local people. For example, we recently had a local farmer approach us with some beef mince from his cattle that he’d had back from the butcher, so we stocked that.

“Our approach is appreciated by our customers as they know they’re not just getting something from the supermarket. One of our most popular events was a ‘meat’ weekend last summer. We had meat from the butcher from one of our beasts - a whole beef carcass - and it sold out in two days. We showcased the quality by selling beef burgers so people could taste them before buying. It was such a success we had people coming back for more.”

Ellie Dangerfield
The farm shop and WILD Café were the brainchild of Ellie Dangerfield

Future plans

Ellie is already planning to expand the venture, with many plans in the pipeline. “I aim to make the shop accessible 24/7 with vending machines filled with meat and baked goods. I’m also planning pop-up events throughout the summer months, which are more educational. Although I have growth plans, I don’t want to take anything away from the fact that this is a working farm – it’s the roots of what we do.”

The power of social media

Social media has helped spread the message of the farm shop and café, with more people visiting from further afield. “Social media helps publicise our business and events, and also lets us show people what is happening on the farm all year round, from the good and the not-so-good.”

This was highlighted during the lambing season. “We’ve previously invited families into the lambing sheds,” says Ellie. “However, due to a rise in the number of cases of Schmallenberg virus, we weren’t able to do it. Not everybody understands the complications associated with lambing, and we had many messages asking when visitors could come and feed the lambs. Rather than replying to them all, using social media allowed me to encapsulate everything we were facing and to be honest.”

As a working farm, the more we can explain and educate farm life to our visitors, the better

Ellie Dangerfield

“We’ve had so much support taking this approach. It can be a challenge but it is important for people to learn and understand,” says Ellie.

Friend and family support

Starting a business can be a challenge, and Ellie admits that the support she has received has made it easier. “My parents have been really supportive. They were happy for me to do whatever I wanted with the shop, which has allowed me to develop it and grow it at a manageable level. My close friend Charlie has catering and business experience, which has been invaluable in opening the café and producing food for it. My fiancé James has also been a great support, and he’d like to become more involved in the future if we can progress to the stage where the income could support us both.”

Business advice

Ellie’s advice to anyone looking to start their journey is to set realistic goals. “I didn’t go to university and do an agricultural or business course, but while developing my plan, I continually questioned how I was going to achieve it.

“By taking small steps you can achieve what you set out to do. I am proud of everything that I have achieved. I’ve been able to push myself more than I thought in such a short space of time. There is no reason not to start with something small, and as your profile rises and you build a connection with your customers, you can build on this and become a success.”

Wick Street farm shop meat