Fife-based family-run business Ardross Farm Shop has just been selected by some of the UK’s most prominent food experts as this year’s triumphant overall winner of ‘Retailer of the Year’ in the Farm Shop & Deli Awards.
The competition, held in association with Olives Et Al, saw its winner announced this week at the Farm Shop& Deli Show at the NEC, Birmingham.
Nearly 300 entrants were initially judged in category and regional rounds. Ardross won both previous stages, being declared Farm Shop of the Year at the category stage and coming out top in Scotland.
Recognising the very best standards in speciality retail and celebrating the highest levels of service, product knowledge, innovation and community involvement, the judging process is managed by a panel of food industry experts.
They include chairman of the judges, food critic, journalist and broadcaster Nigel Barden; acclaimed food and drink writer, chef and former restaurateur Elaine Lemm; Michelin-trained restaurateur and head of product development at Morrisons Neil Nugent; television cook and Celebrity Masterchef winner Lisa Faulkner; Michelin star winning head chef Tom Aikens; winner of Great British Bake Off Ed Kimber and many more.
Nigel Barden said that the judging process had scoured the UK for the best independent speciality retailer.
“The quality of the outlets we’ve seen only serves to highlight just how outstanding Ardross Farm Shop is.
“From a collection of brilliant butchers, cheesemongers, greengrocers, markets and delicatessens, Ardross has managed to combine so many elements – community spirit, specialist knowledge and magnificent produce – to represent a gold standard in the retail arena.”
Elaine Lemm said that what makes Ardross Farm Shop very special is the combination of things that they do so brilliantly.
These, she said, include using traditional, highly sustainable farming methods and maintaining exceptional welfare standards for their cattle, and customer service where it isn’t unusual to pop out to the farm to cut another fresh cabbage especially for someone.
One of the most charming elements of Ardross Farm Shop is the family and community spirit that runs throughout.
The judges said that having previously worked with mainstream retailers selling their traditionally reared beef, the shop launched in 2005, born out of a need to diversify away from these channels.
With Fiona and Rob Pollock and daughter Nikki Storrar at the helm, the trio found a local abattoir and butcher to handle their beef, and looked to sell their meat directly to the public.
Taking over a beautiful cart shed on their farm, they stripped wood, painted walls and flyered far and wide, launching with just one chest freezer and bundles of enthusiasm. The family started selling traditionally reared beef and tasty local vegetables, getting a fantastically positive response from the outset.
“The first thing visitors notice on arrival at Ardross Farm Shop is its breathtakingly beautiful setting, overlooking the North Sea, with the farm stretching out behind the shop.
“Being off the beaten track, Ardross is very much a ‘destination shop’, both for locals and tourists.
“Upon entering you are greeted by the wonderfully friendly Pollock family, who are assisted by 22 locally-based employees.
“An array of over 40 different seasonal fruits and vegetables are traditionally grown& picked each morning from the farm. What little produce is left over at the end of each day is fed to the cattle, so nothing is wasted.
“The farm’s beautiful Stabiliser cattle enjoy outstanding welfare standards, grazing in clover rich fields and eating seeds grown on the farm especially for them, all to the background musings of BBC Radio 4 – the music and voices from radio are believed to help relax cattle.
“The family are careful to ensure chemical and medical intervention is minimal and alternatives are found wherever possible. For example, instead of employing chemicals to deter flies they use garlic licks – the cattle love them and the flies don’t; the perfect natural solution,” said the judges.
Ardross Farm Shop determinedly supports local events and organisations – for example burgers are provided at cost to local summer fairs, along with staff to help on the stands.
The shop also allows use of its loft space free of charge to locals looking to host events, and they’ve had craft fairs, art exhibitions and children’s book stalls, amongst others.
Nikki is vice chair of the Local Tourism Association, while other members of staff are on the local Sea Queen Day committee and many are involved in local football teams and tennis clubs.
Additionally, the shop delivers free vegetable boxes to numerous coffee mornings and schools, as well as taking boxes to elderly local people to ensure their carers have wonderful fresh, local produce for them.
Nikki said that to have been announced as the overall winner of this year’s Farm Shop and Deli Awards is “just the most wonderful feeling”
“The decision was driven by customer votes and finally selected by a panel of some of the UK’s top foodies!
“We were so thrilled to have been selected in both the category and regional judging stages and are absolutely overwhelmed to have been chosen as the overall winner.
“We’d like to thank our team at the shop for their ongoing hard work and making this accolade all the more meaningful.”
Photo shows left to right: Fiona Pollock, Nikki Storrar, Giles Henschel from Olives Et Al, Nigel Barden