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Agritour in 2012 to Feature England

By Jane Eckert

Do you feel that you have run out of new ideas for your farm market?  Have you been a regular on the U.S. and Canadian farm market bus tours, and in some ways feel like you are not seeing anything new?   If that describes you, you may want to bust out of the old ruts and consider joining me in April 2012 on an agritour to jolly old England.  Our farm group will visit farm shoppes, adventure parks, a cookery school, farmers’ markets, coffee shop, farm restaurant, and more, each hand-picked to help you expand your thinking and give you new ideas of ways to grow your business.  

My first farm tour to England was with the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA) in 1998, and I’ve known since then that I want to return and visit more of the United Kingdom (UK), and especially its farms and agribusinesses. Our friends across the pond have been involved in farm direct marketing for a long time and many continue as multi-generational farms.  They have evolved and developed some interesting ideas not always seen here in the U.S. and have created ways to attract new customers that are likely applicable to our own farms.  

On April 13-22, 2012, we are going on our fifth agritour and a once in a lifetime farm tour to visit some of the very best from the National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association (FARMA), the only organization in the U.K. dedicated to supporting the local direct sales sector. Our tour will focus on the area south of London from the English Channel to the Celtic Sea and then back to London. All farms will be open and operating during these dates.

Here are some of our program highlights:

Newlyn’s Farm Shop, last year’s winner of the ‘Rural Enterprise’ Inspire Awards, is a 500-acre traditional mixed farm with animals and grain crops. They are also one of seven finalists for the FARMA Best Farm Shops of the year. They are known for their top quality meat and friendly butchers.   They feature a state of the art cookery school with classes for every age group and every taste. (www.newlysn-farmshop.co.uk )

Secretts is a multi-enterprise farm shop including a flower shop, garden centre, pick your own and the Rendezvous restaurant. A third generation farm business set in the beautiful Surry countryside since 1908, they have 150 acres of production outdoors and under glass. (www.secretts.co.uk )

Denbies Winery is England’s Largest Vineyard, set in a beautiful chateau style estate in Dorking, Surry.  They feature an outdoor vineyard train ride and, in addition, host an array of events and exhibitions through-out the year for families and adults. The property includes conference facilities, wedding sites and farmhouse accommodations. (www.denbies.co.uk )

A visit to Tulleys Farm will include their farm shop plus a stop at their farmhouse kitchen tea room and hay rack espresso bar.  The farm shop features a Victorian Courtyard and Plant Centre.
Stuart Beare, a NAFDMA member, has also learned from us and now offers an extensive Maze Fun Park, Farmers Golf and plenty of seasonal festivals. (www.tulleysfarm.com )

Durleighmarsh Farm Shop grows 12 fruit crops and over 20 different types of vegetables, as well as herbs and PYO flowers on 25 acres. The farm shop features their products as well as those grown by other local farmers.  Their pick your own season begins with rhubarb and includes the summer fruits of strawberries, gooseberries, black currants, tayberries and plums. (www.durleighmarshfarmshop.co.uk )

Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park will be a highlight of the tour.  They feature many animal attractions as well as a woodland walk, daily milking demonstrations, interactive water play and the Hen House Restaurant. Farmer Palmer’s is an entertainment park with plenty to do for all. Phillip and Sandra Palmer (a brother & sister team) also host birthday parties and other special group events. (www.farmerpalmers.co.uk )

 Laverstoke Park, “Known as the University of Organics,” features a large online store to purchase a variety of meat cuts in addition to their farm shop. They feature an education centre for their school groups to learn about healthy eating. One of their newest ventures has been to produce their own organic ale using the traditional hops and barley grown on the farm. (www.laverstokepark.co.uk )

Garsons, growing since 1871, features a very attractive farm shop with an enticing butchers department, local produce, chocolates and gifts for foodies.  Their modern Garden Centre buildings feature an outdoor furniture department, huge plant displays and their outstanding Terrace restaurant. The restaurant features home cooking, homemade cakes or a pot of tea and scones and truly a place for retail therapy. (www.garsons.co.uk )

The Big Sheep Park is devoted to sheep and plenty of fun! They feature animal shows with border collies not only rounding up the sheep but also ducks.  The entertainment park features a high rope course, the EWEtopia indoor play zone, sheep shearing show, lamb feeding, outdoor combat games on a 7-acre battlefield and much more.  For the agritainment farms, this is a must-see stop. (www.thebigsheep.co.uk/)

A trip to England would not be complete without seeing some of the traditional tourist sites including the Brighton seafront, Mayflower Exhibition, Stonehenge, Buckland Abbey (home to Sir Francis Drake) a London city bus tour to see Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard, the new London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Portabello Road antique market.  We have also included two farmers’ markets in Borough Market, is London’s most renowned food market and the Stoke Newington Market.  There are more farm stops and sightseeing on this agritour,  but I just wanted to get you intrigued about the possibility of a trip to the U.K. in 2012.

As you can see, an agritour to England will show you new entertainment ideas, new display techniques and new products. In order to grow our businesses, it is important to get off the farm to see what others are doing and I know a trip to the U.K. will certainly expand your thinking. The best part of the trip is that you will be able to talk about the “stops’ and network with other great farm direct marketers.

 You will be able to print off the entire itinerary from my website or send me an email to request a brochure.  This trip is expected to fill up quickly so we will need your reservations in order to secure your spot for April 2012.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.