3:00 PM May 15, 2022
Tourism ventures have helped a Norfolk family farm survive the economic turmoils of agriculture – with high fuel prices even driving a rise in staycation visitors.
Little Abbey Farm at Pentney, near King’s Lynn, is a mixed farm run by Ben and Diane Howlett and their family.
But at least half of its revenue is now supplied by tourism.
It has offered B&B accommodation for 25 years, with stables in the annexe converted in 2000 to provide four en-suite rooms.
This year, the family has invested another £100,000 in two luxury handmade glamping lodges with private hot tubs.
It indicates the success of a diversification which now underpins the farm’s revenue.
Mrs Howlett said: “We are a 100-acre farm, but without the B&B we would not be here. My son Philip runs contract chickens now, which is another regular income, but the B&B has become the mainstay of the business.
“We are currently finding a lot of people coming from Norwich or Beccles, and they say it is because the fuel is so expensive, so it is cheaper than going up to Yorkshire or somewhere like that.
“We are a working family farm, so people love to come and see the animals and feed the lambs and see what we are doing. We use our own sausages and bacon through the B&B, people really like that.”
The B&B serves home-cooked breakfasts and meals using free-range meats, eggs and vegetables produced on the farm, which has 100 pedigree Hereford cows, 20,000 free-range chickens on a contract with Traditional Norfolk Poultry, and some sheep and pigs.
Mr Howlett said: “The farm is part of the tourist angle. People stay here because we are a working farm, rather than just a room in the middle of nowhere.
“We encourage people to wander around and have a look at things. Sometimes I will take them for a drive around in the truck when we are calving, so they get a close look at what is happening.
“I think it is really important to show people that, and they usually go home a little bit wiser.
“Quite a big percentage of farms now have some non-agriculture income streams. I think perhaps it is the smaller farms that really need to look at it. The larger farms still seem to be able to survive on just agriculture.
“We have got about 100 acres. Being a small farm, we found out quite a long time ago that what we were doing was not viable on its own.”
For 25 years, the accommodation at Little Abbey Farm has been listed via Farm Stay, founded in 1983 as the UK’s first not-for-profit farmer-owned consortium aimed at promoting the agri-tourism industry.
According to Farm Stay data, Norfolk is the third most popular destination for rural holidays and farm stays, behind Yorkshire and Cornwall.
It has also reported 45pc surge in bookings since 2018, the greatest increase in its history.
Farm Stay chairperson Kay Barriball said: “Whilst our clientele and members have always been dedicated to sustainability, we see this as a trend which will become even more pronounced post-pandemic, both in terms of what our members offer, and what guests look for in a holiday.”
published 2022-05-20 22:56:17