AROUND 40 per cent of people plan to buy more from farm shops and local producers this Christmas, recent research has shown.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual has revealed there has been an increase in the number of people using farm shops during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following on from that trend, NFU Mutual’s research revealed that one in four people have used farm shops or local producers more in 2020 and plan to continue to do so.

Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Throughout the pandemic farm shops have provided a lifeline to local communities, sourcing vital supplies during shortages, delivering fresh produce to vulnerable people and helping to keep people’s spirits up with friendly service.

“The rise of these rural retailers has been no mean feat.

"Many farm shops have worked round the clock transforming their business model to meet demand, such as introducing click and collect services.

"Staff have adapted from serving in farm shop cafes to processing and delivering online orders, and stores have redesigned their layouts to offer Covid-safe shopping experiences.”

According to new research from NFU Mutual, supporting smaller, local businesses was the biggest reason people chose to buy from farm retailers and small producers over the pandemic.

Fresher, better quality produce was also rated highly, followed by the environmental benefits of buying local food.

Rebecca added: “Promisingly, 40 per cent of people say they will use farm shops and local producers more this Christmas and there are encouraging signs that these changes are here to stay.

"In fact, a recent survey of our customers has revealed that shopping locally is the top permanent change they plan to make after the pandemic is over.

"There’s no better way to thank our farm shops and farmers for their hard work this year than by supporting them - not only over the festive season but into 2021 and beyond.”

Research from the Farm Retail Association (FRA) carried out in July found that 92 per cent of farm retailers reported a significant rise in new customers since the first lockdown in March.

As part of its ongoing support for farmers diversifying their businesses, NFU Mutual held a webinar earlier this year with the FRA on setting up a farm shop enterprise.

Jenny Rose, manager of the Farm Retail Association, said: “We are hugely encouraged by the latest NFU Mutual research.

"Much of this success story has been a result of farm shops being able to replenish shelves which has helped establish them as reliable food suppliers, alongside shops providing a relaxed but Covid-safe environment for shopping which consumers find less chaotic than other retail settings.”