Farm Ireland

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Ask Feargal: I run a medium-sized farm rearing lamb and plan to set up a farm shop. Any advice?

Feargal Quinn founder of Superquinn answers your business questions

Now is the perfect time to get on top of your flocks health
Now is the perfect time to get on top of your flocks health

Feargal Quinn

Q. I run a medium-sized farm rearing lamb and plan to set up a farm shop. Is there any advice you can give?

A. It is great that you are adding value to what you are doing and also setting up a direct link with the consumer. That will allow you to make a premium on the product and potentially build a brand for the future.

However, farm shops are complex - and Ireland doesn't have a long history in this area yet. The biggest challenge can be to get the public from the urban areas to travel to the farm on a regular enough basis to give you the revenue you will need.

First, ensure that people know your story and that will involve developing a strong marketing and PR campaign. Working with digital media, which can be cost-effective, and trying to secure free PR in the local media will all help.

Running on-farm events like opening up the farm to the public for a 'lambing weekend' is a great way to get people to know that you exist.

Events like this really appeal to families. I saw on social media recently a very successful version of this when Maperath Farm in Co Meath invited their customers to their turkey farm a few weeks before Christmas. Smart business!

One caution is that it might not make sense to have the farm shop trading all day, every day. You will end up having to be available constantly, with only possibly a handful of customers on some days.

Only trade at the busier weekend days to start off with and then expand this as the business grows. Seasonally you could also open for extra hours during school holidays, etc.

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Like all business projects, you need to conduct a feasibility study first and talk to others who run similar enterprises. What level of sales is this likely to generate?

What energy and effort will you have to put in? Are there easier ways for you to generate sales - eg selling directly to consumers at a farmer's market on a weekly basis instead of getting people to come on farm?

Your farm shop is an excellent idea. You just need to make sure that it will achieve the commercial objectives that you need.

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