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Hessett farm shop finds new customers as community avoids supermarkets

A traditionally-run farm that strives to provide an ‘honest’ production has been busier than ever during lockdown, its owners have said.

Heath Farm Suffolk has used its shop to keep serving its Hessett community throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with residents wary of shopping in supermarkets.

Katie Mitcham-Henry said she and co-manager Mike Phillips have not taken a breather as their livestock ‘are not aware of the virus’ and their 100 acres of land need tending.

Co-owners Katie Mitcham-Henry and Mike Phillips with Max the bull	Picture by Mecha Morton
Co-owners Katie Mitcham-Henry and Mike Phillips with Max the bull Picture by Mecha Morton

“While some businesses have had to stop, our business has increased,” she said. “We have had to carry on and we have flourished through the pandemic. We have to do this to support our farm, our animals and the lives of the people in our community.”

Heath Farm was born out of Katie and Mike’s vision to educate people about where food comes from. The pair use traditional husbandry methods to rear native breeds of sheep, cattle, turkey and chicken - with herds fed on grass and medicine used sparingly. Animals are taken for slaughter ‘when they are ready,’ and often at a later stage to commercial farms. Over eight years, the farm has grown in size from its initial 12 acres, has developed an online presence of 1,800 Facebook followers, and, crucially, developed a respectful following in Hessett that has seen demand increase in recent weeks.

Katie, who previously had a career as a chef, said the farm has met lockdown challenges by only allowing one customer into the shop at a time, by increasing cleaning procedures, and enforcing a ‘card only’ policy for payment. The farm café has closed but could soon reopen as an outdoor entity.

She continued: “We have had to carry on with the shop otherwise we could not sustain the running of the farm. We have put measures in to make sure we are safe, providing a safe shopping experience for our customers as well as educating them. We have also been delivering to the vulnerable in the community. A woman in Australia contacted us to ask if we could deliver food to her aunt who lives in Thurston!”

Katie and Mike have for years taken on the rearing, butchering and selling process themselves, as well as taking animals for slaughter. They have recently taken on two more employees on a part-time basis.

Katie has also thanked Hessett residents for volunteering to give milk to orphaned lambs.

She added: “We are lucky with our customers. For them, coming here is a chance to reconnect with normality and nature, which is a boost for someone’s mental health.”

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