Express & Star

'Our customers were asking for these two things for the longest time - we rolled both into one'

Sometimes, a business needs to change up how it operates and listen to its customers.


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It can be a change in opening hours, how a place prices up some of its stock or, in the case of Essington Farm, offering a place where people could get refreshments and enjoy freshly made hot drinks and cakes.

The farm, which has been part of the South Staffordshire village landscape since 1892, built the cafe in 1990 and, since then, has been able to offer a year-round place for people to come and buy fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and treats and even homemade haggis.

It has won awards for its afternoon tea from Good Food and also provides something for everyone from sweet to savoury, including fish finger sandwiches, fruit scones and a range of indulgent cakes, some with strawberries when they are in season.

The tea room was built in 1990 after being requested by customers

Owner and farmer Richard Simkin said the cafe had come into being after being asked for by customers for a long time.

He said: "At the time, we were very much a pick-your-own fruit farm and not much else, but our customers kept asking us for two things for the longest time.

A range of cakes and treats are available

"The first was to have somewhere they could do their shopping all year round and the other for them to be able get some refreshments, so we rolled two solutions into one and built a farm shop and tea room, with a kitchen, in an L-shape.

"It meant we had somewhere we could supply both with home-cooked produce as we've always been of the opinion that local food is beneficial for the economy in so many ways as it's good environmentally and we've made that our central ethos."

Mr Simkin said the tea room had been a big learning curve for him because, as he put it, "we're farmers, not caterers", and there was a lot to learn around pricing, environmental health regulations and catering for customers.

John and Margaret Buick enjoy the food and drink

However, he said the farm had made it work and said that it had transformed the farm from a seasonal business to one which could open all year round.

He said: "It was all concentrated on a few mad weeks in the summer at the time, but opening the tea room gave us the facility to open all year round, with weekends being the busiest time.

"It also meant that we could retain staff as, at one point, they were just seasonal, whereas we could now offer them work all year around.

"It's been good to make ourselves a year around business as we're not quite so subject to the vagaries of the weather in the summer and we can open every day of the year, except for Christmas and New Year, and keep it to home cooked, honest food."

Every product is homemade using products from the farm

The food itself is one which has become the major selling point for the tea room, with Mr Simkin saying the Sunday roasts were very popular and there were also a few hot dishes each day, with the menu changing seasonally.

He said that the fish and chips and cottage pie were some of the specialities, while jacket potatoes and homemade soup were all big sellers and said there were so many options available for people.

He said: "In the summer when the weather is nice, we can used the cooked meats from our deli counter and we also do really nice salads from our produce, stuff that's good to connect to the business.

There is a wide selection of hot and cold snacks

"We sell pork pies and a range of cakes and we have so many other items that we can pick from the shop and put on sale.

"What makes this work is that it is traditional, home produced and brought here from our own stocks and it's all made with love for the customers."