Spread out over a sizable patch of Allington Bar Farm, this place is teeming with people when we swing by on a Friday lunchtime –the café is full, and shoppers jostle past each other in between the heaving shelves and displays in the store too. Originally set up in 1981, on a farm that the Reynolds family have been tenants on for three generations, the original site stood in what is now just a small corner of the 38-year-old store. It’s clearly flourishing now, then –but you don’t have to look too far back into its history to find out how close it came to being closed down
for good. In 2001, the discovery of foot and mouth disease in an Essex abattoir began the devastating downward spiral of the UK’s agricultural industry. It was months before the infectious disease was under control –but by that time farms across the entire country had been affected, millions of animals had been slaughtered, £250 million worth of trade lost, and consumers’ faith in meat farming systems destroyed. Of course, this hit the Reynolds family –who farmed pigs, cattle and sheep – painfully hard.
“Foot and mouth nearly killed us,” Naomi Reynolds tells us. “People just didn’t come here – they didn’t want to be anywhere near a farm.” After almost being forced to close the shop, and following some serious perseverance, a miraculous about-turn happened –one that no one quite anticipated. In response to the crisis, customers began to take an active and fiercely thorough interest in where their meat was coming from –leading them to seek Allington out. Soon, hordes of people were shopping here for their meat.
The shop became more popular, and more successful, than anyone could have imagined a few months before, and led the family to significantly expand the business in 2008. As well as home-reared meat in the butchery –which is supplemented by some from trusted neighbouring farms –Allington Farm Shop also stocks potatoes grown on site, as well as fresh vegetables from local suppliers (we spot Wye Valley asparagus and Bromham carrots). Some stock comes from a little further afield too –sweet Isle of Wight tomatoes, for instance – and drinks, storecupboard staples and homemade readyto- eat items make sure that this remains the only destination punters need to visit for their entire weekly shop.
“We’ve always been part of the community – there’s no village shop in Allington, so it’s always had that feel here,” explains Naomi. “We have lots of regular local customers, and loads that come from further away too, from Bath and even Bristol.” Talk about making a comeback…