Collaboration puts local produce in prime position
It’s just over a year since the creation of the Big G, the
unique brand developed by a group of 12 farm shops working together
across Gloucestershire to promote the importance of supporting
locally grown food and drink.
Gloucestershire Farm Shops’ group leader is Rob Keene, who with
his wife Sue grows around 80 different crops on their farm near
Gloucester where they also run the Over Farm Market shop. “We’re
waiting to see what the full benefits of the Big G project will be
over time,” he says. “We really need to stick with it for
several years yet to tell if it’s driving new sales that we
wouldn’t have achieved otherwise, but it certainly is giving us a
more powerful voice to reach customers together than we’d have
“It’s helping us in other ways too, including sharing ideas and
pooling resources. For example, Sue and I have got together with
the other three member farms that grow strawberries to buy our
fertiliser in bulk, meaning that we all save money. This in turn
enables us to offer even better value to our customers, and
therefore to make locally produced and sold food even more
The group was awarded an RDPE grant worth 70% of the money they
needed to launch the Big G through Business Link’s Rural Service,
which exists to support the rural economy throughout the South
West. According to Business Link Rural Adviser Graham
Thompson “This kind of saving is a typical benefit of collaboration
between farmers, which is why we are keen to provide funding to
help farmers come together in collaborative groups.
“But what is so exciting about this particular group is the way in
which they can both save money and attract income through marketing
activity that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
This, after all, has been a very difficult economic time for all
retailers. I think it’s safe to say that the fact that there’s been
no reduction in sales is testimony to how successfully the Big G
approach is supporting the local produce message.”
Membership of the Big G collective is restricted to farmers who
sell their own produce through their shops. As Rob Keene
says, “If we accepted every store that calls itself a farm shop in
Gloucestershire, we would have hundreds of members. But we
think that there are only about 20 farm shops in the county who
sell what they actually grow, and we’re proud that more than half
of these are already members.”
Customers can spot the participating stores by their use of the
Big G logo and promotional posters. Thanks to funding through the
Business Link Rural service, the group was able to engage the
marketing and promotional services of a local PR consultancy who
helped oversee the development of the Big G brand. According
to Graham Thompson, “This was a fantastic experience for all the
farmers involved, and I’m confident that the brand will soon become
an established mark of high-quality local food with consumers
You can see more about the Big G at www.gloucestershirefarmshops.co.uk.
Anyone wishing to find out more about Business Link’s Rural
service, including how it can help farming groups and collectives,
should call 0845 600 9966 or visit www.businesslink.gov.uk/southwest/rural.
Business Link’s Rural Business Support Services – Delivered by a
dedicated network of Project Officers, Advisers and approved
independent consultants, these comprise a range of support
Independent and Impartial Business Advice – Business Link’s
rural advisers will spend time with businesses to review their
current position and discuss proposals for developing the business.
They will work with the business as proposals develop finding
appropriate support to deliver the help that is needed.
Grant Funding and Brokerage – Business Link is the main
access point to advice, information and support through the RDPE in
the South West. Applicants for funding can be put in touch with
professional support services to help develop firm proposals.
R4F – Free professional advice on how best to manage on farm
resources, such as energy, water, air and non-organic wastes (e.g.
plastics), more efficiently.