The farm shops of Aberdeenshire finding success
Growing market share by Aberdeenshire farm shops is an example to follow for the rest of the nation
The farm shop is a growth industry across the UK, but Aberdeenshire’s share of the market is developing as few other parts of Scotland. At a rough estimate there are nearly forty such businesses in the region, from large-scale, family-day-out operations to much simpler farm-gate shop fronts. ‘There’s no doubt we live in a bubble up here,’ says Andrew Booth, owner of Newburgh’s The Store, one of the biggest such enterprises. ‘I resisted opening a coffee shop for ten years and I’ve had to eat my words. There’s no doubt it has brought the business on to the next stage.’
Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly the popularity of their Aberdeen Angus beef, and Booth believes one of the reasons the area’s farm shop scene took off in the last decade or so is in some way attributable to the area’s international reputation.
‘Aberdeen being what it is,’ he says, ‘it has a broad spectrum of people from across the country and the world coming to work in the oil industry. Certainly when we started ten to twelve years ago, it was the case that these people were hunting us out more than the locals.’
Yet to focus too much on the famous beef is to dismiss Aberdeenshire’s versatility as farming land. ‘We’re blessed, in a way, that there’s a huge range of topography and scenery in Aberdeenshire,’ says Phil Swire, farmer at relative newcomer Balmakewan Farm Shop, near Laurencekirk, ‘and that leads to a wide range of produce. I think there’s a lot of truth in the phrase that people come to Aberdeenshire to see the best of Scotland. There’s a vast array of farms and businesses, and I think that’s quite unique in Scotland, it gives us a very interesting and tasty larder.’ Balmakewan’s speciality, he says, is a well-stocked cheese and deli counter, as well as their own farm-grown fruit and veg.
Interestingly Booth confirms only steady growth for his public-facing side of the business, with an understandable blip in 2008, and says the market for farm grown and reared produce in Aberdeenshire is still some way from saturation point. ‘We’re always supportive of shops opening,’ he says, ‘especially shops up the north coast here, because everyone seems to come up to Aberdeen, turn left and head to Deeside. There’s a lot to see up here. The more in the area, the better it is for the area.’