Rural food and farming business adopts e-commerce as a vital life-line during recession

11 April 2012

Peelham Farm Produce, an organic farm and food business based in the Scottish Borders which produces and sells quality organic meat products, has fully embraced e-commerce as a significant part of its policy to build resilience during the economic down-turn.

With other areas of its customer-base affected by the recession in particular hotels and restaurants, Peelham Farm's business partners are taking advantage of the surge in popularity with online food sales. The UK is Europe’s leading e-retail economy and online grocery sales are set to double by 2015 according to IGD.

With a professionally designed and constructed e-commerce website the business's web sales of its home-bred and hand-made organic products has increased exponentially in the last 12 months. Internet sales currently account for 13% of sales which is a spectacular increase from the 0.01% twelve months ago! The target is 20% by the end of this year and 50% by 2014.

The business now engages actively with social media (Facebook and Twitter) to drive customers to the website. According to Peelham has the fourth largest Twitter following in the Region which is a considerable achievement for a small family business. Facebook and Twitter have driven 6% of sales this month alone.

Denise Walton, Managing Partner of Peelham Farm Produce believes that social media is particularly well-suited to the promotion and selling of organic, artisan and local food products; "It is a one-to-one communication which works like word-of-mouth and depends on trust which is particularly suited to the promotion of food in an era where trust in the food we eat has been seriously eroded". Social media allows the business to interact directly with both domestic retail, and commercial customers with many top chefs actively interacting with them. It also allows the business to reach and target consumer groups that would otherwise have been inaccessible; for example with its organic gluten-free and ‘free-from’ for people with allergies.

She goes on to explain that "issues such as the principles of organic farming, provenance, environmental and animal welfare are best communicated by the actual producer directly to the consumer - which is what social media achieves and which complements our customer-facing activities such as farmers markets. There is always a flurry of social media activity after our markets and food fairs". She also commented that the state of the economy is particularly tough on small family businesses which need to build resilience and that e-commerce is a positive way forward.

Peelham Farm is semi-upland, mixed organic farm on the Lammermuir margins in SE Berwickshire. The farm business partners Amanda Cayley, Chris and Denise Walton have diversified the farm business to include an on-farm organic butchery from which over 100 different added-value quality organic products are sold from their free-range rare-breed pork, lamb, mutton, beef and ruby-veal including charcuterie and gluten-free. Farm employment has increased from 1 to 7 as a result bucking the trend in the farming and food sector. The farm and butchery are certified and assured by Scottish Organic Producers Association. The business is a producer member of the Soil Association and Slow Food UK. It is also a member of the NFUS and Scotland of Food and Drink.

For further information contact Denise Walton on 07890-266953 or email
Images at: other images available on request.

Send in your stories

We are looking for news and events relevant to our work in Scotland, such as Scottish organic farming and sustainable food. Please send us a short paragraph outlining your news or event with a link to further information, and a photograph if possible. Please note, we reserve the right to edit items sent in to us.