R&BS have helped Helen and James Baird of Pluckley Farm Shop obtain further finance to allow them to complete developments to their separate farm site.
Helen Baird gave up her job as a lawyer in 2010 to open Pluckley Farm Shop on a vacant commercial site in Pluckley, Kent. From a farming background, Helen could see a gap in the local market. The shop was hugely popular, and in 2013 she started rearing free range pigs to utilise food waste from the shop, and to sell fresh pork in the shop. The pigs were kept at nearby Dering Farm which they rented.
Future-proofing the farm and integration with the farm shop
When the opportunity came to purchase Dering Farm in 2021, they took it. At the same time, Helen’s husband, James, retired as a lawyer and is now fully involved in Pluckley Farm Shop and Dering Farm.
Dering Farm consists of 22 acres of grassland, woodland and two barns. The smaller barn was converted to a house using their own money, but they sought Rob’s help finding funding to complete the developments at the farm.
With no water or electricity on site, and with the increasing costs of building materials, the additional funds were required to fund the connection of electricity, futureproof the farm with water standpipes through the fields, and to complete the larger barn conversion project. One of the houses would be a holiday let.
Guidance on the business plan, supporting information and the lending proposal made the difference
Helen and James didn’t get a positive feel from their existing lender for the further advance. But by working with Rob Lister of R&BS, they were steered towards compiling a comprehensive business plan. Rob helped gather supporting information and Helen and James prepared a strong plan complete with financial appendices.
They planned to introduce an artisan charcuterie producing the likes of smoked sausages and salami for the farm shop. Their charcuterie plan and costings were thorough, and they sensibly invested in research to understand the marketability, costs and potential income streams of the holiday let enterprise before embarking on the projects.
Rob’s subsequent lending proposal and recommendation culminated in a formal credit sanction.
Helen said: “Your approach didn't just enhance our chances, you nailed it. The banks only listened to our proposal once you gave us direction. I wholeheartedly recommend your services."
"Your service was outstanding! We couldn't have done it without you. You have changed our lives enormously. I can't tell you how relieved we are and are so very grateful for all your help. Dreams do come true!”
James and Helen now live in one conversion, and the other is a holiday let. They intend to expand the farming enterprise and to continue to integrate the farm with the farm shop, rearing pigs for high-quality pork products.
Our tips for a successful farm shop taking the Pluckley way
- Collaborate with local farms and suppliers as much as you can. For example, Helen and James work with a local campsite and holiday cottages providing breakfast baskets.
- Make yourselves different to capture as wide an audience as possible. The fresh Pluckley Pork sells out very quickly, but by introducing the charcuterie products (such as smoked sausage), they can create a long-life pork product enabling them to always have Pluckley Pork available in some form.
- Don’t be afraid to invest in other external expertise to help you achieve your goals. Helen and James used a local travel consultant to research the marketability and income for their holiday let, and employed R&BS in their search for finance.
- Join the Farm Retail Association – they hold regular seminars with experts in the retail sector and meetings with other farm shops to swap information regarding trends.
- Look out for grant opportunities – James and Helen recently had one to help with digital marketing to create TikTok clips and YouTube videos.
If you are looking for finance for your farm shop or farm developement, we’d love to talk to you to find out more about your project and to see how we can help you. Please call or email us.