The first Walsingham Farm Shop was born out of the desire to link Walsingham Estate with its farming tenants following the Curry Report of 2002, produced by the Policy Commission to look in to the future of farming and food.
By chance the Curry Report coincided with the closure of the village’s butcher’s shop. ‘I wanted to develop something in the village that would help to inject new life into the village,’ says John Downing. A Rural Enterprise Scheme grant of 40 per cent of the set up costs in 2006 proved invaluable in getting the new venture off the ground.
The members of the Walsingham Farms Shop Partnership are Clovis and Elizabeth Meath Baker who live in the historic Abbey in the centre of Walsingham; the Walsingham Estate Company, which owns the buildings; John Downing, the estate’s resident land agent; and James Woodhouse, tenant farmer and beef producer at Hill House Farm on the estate.
‘We wanted our shops to be more unpredictable and more industrial than the traditional farm shop. About the future of farming, while not forgetting its history,’ says Elizabeth Meath Baker, adding, ‘it is not just a shop that happens to be on a farm. We embrace the theatre of shopping. Being here should be a pleasurable, fun experience whether you are watching sausages or game pies being made, or tasting something from a nearby producer. Shopping with us is experiencing Norfolk food.’