Electricity from Apples

Our more observant friends have noticed a picture of our orchards in both the Times and Telegraph newspapers today. With barely a sentence of print to describe the photographs, what’s the story?

Like many industries linked to the hospitality industry, cider sales have been hit badly by the national lock-downs. For the larger manufacturers, pub sales and summer festivals are where the profit lies. Supermarket sales are hyper-competitive and customers tend to drink less at home than they do when enjoying themselves in the company of friends. The end result has been reduced sales and profits hit hard. In the run-up to COVID-19, the big British Cider makers had identified an over-production of traditional cider apple varieties being grown under contract. This doesn’t necessarily mean a reduced consumption of cider, just that modern, mass produced ciders now prefer to use blander dessert apple juice rather than the complex flavours and tanins of traditional cider varieties. Having reduced the acreage of their orchards, some of the largest producers are still holding large stocks of cider apple concentrate and it seems senseless to just keep stockpiling a product that appears not to be in high demand. Hence, much of last years crop and again this year, will be use to generate electricity rather than being pressed and concentrated. This is not true of all companies. Some have simply reduced the contracted volume to match demand. Conversely, smaller cider makers have fared much better. While retail opportunities of summer festivals have hit sales volumes hard, those that supply farm shops, managed to switch to internet and farm gate sales, have fared better than their bigger brothers. While our crop has gone to the local AD plant, last year we pressed more than 120,000 litres of apple juice for local cider makers to ferment into artisan cider. That’s more than twice as much as the year before. Local ciders are thriving and will kick back quickly now that hospitality and pubs have reopened. Lets hope for a hot and busy summer and lots of thirsts to quench.

The Sun is Over the Yardarm

We will be open at 6pm on Monday 12th April for a chance for villagers of North Perrott to meet again for the first time this year and to raise a glass in memory of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Earl of Merioneth. 1921-2021 RIP

Booking is esssential, please let us know via email farmshop@parrettbrand.co.uk so that we can prepare adequate seating.

Drinks will only be served to customers sitting down on seats provided.


In case of rain, please bring your own brolly!

All flags at half mast.

VEGETABLE PLANTS (click&collect)

Easter has fallen early this year and while we have been selling a few summer bedding plants (for those that want an early start to their hanging baskets), the threat of frost is still very real, all through this month and maybe beyond.

It’s therefore quite early to be talking about tomatoes, cucumbers and melons but that breed of keen gardener, who like to be first to the table with their prized fruit and vegetables, now is the time to get your skates on and your greenhouses frost protected, if you want to make the most of this year’s growing season.

Very early days yet but we have a stunning range of tomato plants in this week and a few other greenhouse crops, such as melons and cucumbers. Soils are now perfect to start off brassicas, lettuce and other field grown crops but please be careful to harden off your plants before leaving them without protection. Greenhouses, cold frames and horticultural fleece are required to ensure a sensible start to the growing season.

Our range of vegetable plants can be viewed by clicking here

Our range of bedding plants can be viewed by clicking here. (Six pack bedding is due in next week)

NB. Stock levels are low at this time of year but as our webshop is linked to our tills, it is sometimes sensible to order online to “click and collect” to ensure that you get what you want. Vegetable plants will be delivered to us weekly but it is already looking as if bedding plants will be in short supply this year.


The recent fine weather has got gardeners excited early this year. The Engish weather is fickle and there are bound to be hic-ups over the next few weeks. Frost mornings are helpful at keeping bugs at bay but will nip anything that raises its head too early.

The plant centre has recently taken delivery of it’s first spring bedding plants and shrubs. We are well stocked with compost and most essential gardening extra and eager to help anyone and everyone, who enjoyed their gardens so much last year.

Click on the photo to see our range of Gardening Gloves

Top priority for working in cold (and possibly wet) weather is a good pair of gloves. We have a small range that covers most requirements, from heavy duty riggers, several types of waterproof gardening gloves and high quality leather gloves, offering protection and dexterity for the most delicate gardening jobs. One pair has smart touch fingers, so you can use your smart phone without taking them off!

The extraordinary National Lockdown last March saw the nation trapped at home during one of the most wonderful Spring season’s for many years. Many people were furloughed for the first time ever and more people than ever turned to gardening as a form of relaxation or therapy, to occupy themselves. The Pandemic had many unforeseen effects and one of those was on the garden centre trade.

Garden Centres were shut down one week and then discovered they were allowed to re-open online. Demand for bedding and vegetable plants skyrocketed and stocks very quickly ran out. Sales of compost doubled and replacement stock was difficult to find. While supplies have mostly returned to normal, there will still be shortages in some departments this spring. One notable shortage last summer were garden canes. In fact, we were not able to get any garden canes after March or through the summer at all. We have just had our first delivery of 8ft garden canes in almost 12 months and there is no guarantee that supply will be unlimited this year. On hearing that news, we made sure to collect ours from the wholesaler last Sunday, rather than risk missing out.

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Click on the image to see Canes and Support.

Like most others, we were a little caught out by the move to internet shopping last April and after a hurried attempt to move compost and bedding plant sales online. we invested in an full blow online shop in June. While the flurry had died down by September, we continue to receive regular orders online and many others are using it as an indication of what is available, before making their essential shopping trip. It is still a work in progress and as photos are added and new stock comes in, there will be regular updates posted through the spring and summer. Having just had our annual stock take at the end of February, the stock online should be quite accurate.

Click on the picture to see stock and prices

Our final notice is about materials we sell by the metre. While many gardening fabrics and nets are now sold in pre-sized packs, we prefer to offer these items for sale by the metre. This is not only a cheaper way of purchasing but it also reduces waste and packaging almost completely. Please click on the photo below to see our full range and prices.


It is with heavy hearts that we welcome in the New Year in Coronavirus Tier 4. This of course means that many more local businesses will be forced to close, bringing financial hardship to their owners and dramatically kerbing our daily routines and freedom. The message is simple, “Stay at Home” (see below for guidance). If we all play our part, 14 days isolation should break the spread of the virus. That message really doesn’t seem to have got through on a national basis, which is the reason the new variant is spreading so quickly and why we should expect to be locked down for some time. Tier 4 has to mean we all take more precautions than we did before, even if the level of infection is particularly low in our area.

The Farm Shop is still regarded as an “Essential Service” and although we will be closed for New Years Day, we will be back to normal hours from 2nd January. We had been hoping to reopen the Coffee Shop in the new year but that will have to be postponed for now.



PLEASE SHOP ALONE unless absolutely necessary.

PLEASE ALLOW at least 24hrs between placing your order and collection.

DELIVERIES to vulnerable households are currently every Thursday.

CLICK & COLLECT if you feel especially vulnerable.

ORDER ON LINE www.parrettbrand.co.uk

ORDER BY EMAIL farmshop@parrettbrand.co.uk

ORDER BY PHONE 01460 77090

We regret we cannot accept orders or amendments to orders by any other form of communication.

While our area remains one of the lowest infection rates in the country, the trend has been steadily upwards since the beginning of November. These are the current statistics on the gov.uk website but are already 7 days old. Infections will have risen in the last week.

Current advice for TIER 4. More detail can be obtained from the gov.uk website regarding the interpretation of “Essential” and exception to rules. Please stay safe.


First tree of 2020 delivered to Perrott Hill School

This year we will have been selling LOCALLY GROWN Christmas Trees for 50 years.

Today the first tree of 2020 was delivered to Perrott Hill School. Hopefully the boarders will have great fun decorating it tonight.

All tree are grown on the Blackdown Hills, are fresh cut and delivered to us weekly. Larger trees are cut to order.

Needle fast varieties; Nordman and Fraser Firs from Sat 28th November

Traditional; Norway Fir from 7th December.

Limited number of small potted trees, Nordman and Blue Spruce

Mistletoe cut from our own orchards.

Hand made wreaths

Please check out our 2020 prices by clicking here

50th APPLE DAY Celebrations

(Provisionally ) 10th – 18th October 2020

Like so many other public gatherings, we have had to look carefully at Government recommendations and whether or not we can hold our normal Apple Day celebrations in 2020. It is a great shame but we have decided that we cannot use our normal format and so we need to scale back for a year. Further salt in the wound is that our farm shop was built in 1970 and this year would have been the 50th anniversary. We wont be sitting back and doing nothing!

The primary problems are space and numbers. We are currently limiting the number of people in our shop to ensure social distancing and in such circumstances, it would be difficult to provide a viable weekend for exhibitors at Art in the Barn, so the barns will be empty this year. Instead, we will be trying to spread out other activities over a week and try to avoid crowds and/or queuing. At the same time, we will be doing our best to promote our usual exhibitors online and give details about how you can still view and purchase their works of art.

Rather than concentrating on one weekend, we will be spreading the love of apples over a longer time-frame. This will mean a permanent display of apples over a week and hopefully a range of food to taste each day. Nearer the time we will announce any special activities such as children’s entertainment, tractor rides and ploughing demonstrations, if the weather allows.

Anyone wanting specific apple advice from Jonathan may have to book an appointment via facebook nearer the time. October is still a busy time of the year on the farm and we will be harvesting cider apples and pressing fruit every day, which represents a problem in how much we can organise at the same time. Concentrating Apple Day into one weekend was a much easier task!

Please keep an eye on www.facebook.com/farmshop for announcements nearer the time.

Pick Your Own

Today is the day we finally earn our ranking at the top of the Google search list for “Local PYO”.

VISTABELLA apples are ready to eat and are looking rather good this year, having enjoyed the sun in May & June. A light crop, so don’t expect the boughs to be creaking under the load and as ever, picked fruit is available in the farm shop.

As with most early varieties, Vistabella is sharp with a melt-in the-mouth texture, rather than the firmer fleshed apples that ripen later in the autumn. Melon-like, the flavour seems to be excellent this year.

Next in line will be George Cave, which is contrast is heaving with apples, so expect this variety to be on the small side this year. Hopefully ready from next week.

Find out more about our PYO here

Web Shop Development

As the country gradually loosens from lock-down, we are looking to plan for the next stage of change for our business. We have already welcomed back many old friends and customers, some of whom have not visited us for over 2 months. During that time we have taken orders by phone and email and relied on volunteers to deliver to vulnerable homes on a weekly basis. While there is no certainty that CoronaVirus is behind us yet, it is clear that changes are upon us again, with less reliance on weekly food deliveries and even questions about when our Coffee Shop will open again? Changes in any business need careful planning to ensure we address our customer need, look after our staff and maintain a sustainable business. One area that we have identified, is to build on the changes that were impressed on us because of the CoronaVirus lock-down. That is that many of our existing customers currently prefer to phone or email us with grocery orders, either for delivery or collection, in a minimal contact fashion, thereby keeping themselves safer from infection. We are also aware of new customers that have found us during the crisis and existing customers who have used us more often or for a greater proportion of their needs. Being open 8 hours a day and 7 days a week is no longer enough to keep everyone’s attention. When we closed our Garden Centre and Coffee Shop on 23rd March, it didn’t take long for customers to move online and our first attempt at satisfying customer demand for compost and bedding plants was “clunky” but functional,, later becoming overrun with demand. It was clear that a proper, integrated system was required to be able to match actual stock levels in the shop with what we were offering for sale on line. Sales were easy, matching supply to demand was impossible and is still proving difficult as many nurseries and warehouses are now empty and the inertia required to match supply with demand not yet gathered steam. The answer seems to be a web shop that links with the stock levels on our electronic tills (Electronic Point of Sale, or EPOS as it’s know in the trade). We now have a web shop that has been functioning successfully for Garden Centre Sales for a few weeks and it is now being extended to the whole farm shop. This will take time……….. Stock lines and stock levels can be imported quite quickly. Shockingly we currently have 7,000 stock lines that were active in the last 3 years and at least 1,500 active at any one time (plants take up a lot of these numbers). EPOS stores only 25 character descriptions, many are almost indecipherable and need editing to make sense. Then there is a short and long description, categories, sub categories and sub sub categories but worst of all, photos. Thousands of photos and it all takes time, a lot of time, mostly in the evenings. It wont be finished any time soon (if ever) but we hope that by next weekend it will be functional enough for customers to make an order at leisure, from the comfort of their own home and collect or receive a delivery on a predetermined day. The aim is to merge this slowly with the services we currently offer and for it to add to the service we offer, not to replace any part of it.

One of the most common exclamations we hear on a daily basis (twice today, since you ask) is “I never knew you stocked that!”. The disadvantage of shopping by phone or email is that customers cannot see the range of produce we stock or the choice within the type of food they are looking for. The internet facilitates this and we have tried to arrange our web shop as if it is a shopping list, so you see all the related items on each shelf. In the shop we have a “Village Shop” section which has been included in the online inventory but with the choice to view just Farm Shop or just Village Shop produce. This is partly why we have so much stock!

There are no immediate plans to be delivering produce outside our locality (although that might be something for the future) and for the moment we will be concentrating on making our business more attractive to customers new and old, who want the convenience of being able to shop at home after a busy day at work and be able to collect their shopping locally (out of normal hours if necessary) or continue to have their shopping delivered if living in a vulnerable household. Internet shopping might not be for everyone but so far we have been surprised by how customers have taken to it willingly, if only to ensure that they don’t waste a shopping trip by knowing that their important items are available and have been reserved for them before they arrive.

It is likely to take another week to get all our stock online and with photos attached, so please keep coming back to see how everything is progressing. The final and most difficult stage will be ensuring that fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are listed in a usable format to be attractive to customers and realistic for us to be able to supply.

Happy shopping 🙂

Shortage of Bedding Plants

The Garden Centre industry is very seasonal and the Coronavirus lock-down came at possibly the worst time of year to disrupt spring plant production. In mid March, all the signals were there to suggest that the UK would have to reduce the movement of people in a similar way to what we were seeing in Italy and throughout Europe. When the lock-down was announced on the Friday before it was to start, it was clear that all retail stores that were not primarily selling groceries or hardware, would be shut. Shut if not indefinitely, then at least until the end of August, which was as far as the Government’s furlough was planned to last. That appeared to signal the end of the spring and summer plant sales.

While most work was meant to continue, from home if no longer at the office, those producing perishable goods had to close immediately and furlough their staff. This included almost all plant nurseries. The National Press gave good coverage to the plight of nurseries who had stock ready to sell that might only last weeks before having to be thrown away. Bedding plant nurseries stopped sowing seeds and locked-down, assuming that the spring would be written off.

A few weeks later, it became clear that online retailers were allowed to continue to sell and that Garden Centres could continue to sell to the public providing the plants were either delivered to customers directly or collected from the door, in what has become known as Click & Collect.

Garden Centres with an on-line presence were swamped and others, like ourselves, scrambled to either man the phones or build an instant web shop or order lists. This took a few weeks to get off the ground but when it did, the nurseries were caught off guard. They scrambled to get re-started but already, the important weeks of production had been lost.

A combination of beautiful weather and so many people being confined to their gardens meant that demand for compost, bedding plants and shrubs went sky high. All of a sudden, the two weeks that had passed left bedding plant nurseries sold out of their early crop and with nothing coming on behind to replace them.

Stocks of bedding plants are now low and it is likely to be 2 or 3 weeks before there is the availability that we would normally expect at this time of year. By then it may be too late for many to consider planting bedding?

Luckily, there is a plentiful supply of shrubs and perennial plants that have built up in the good weather and are now in full flower and waiting to be bought.

Please don’t expect this spring to be quite the same as normal but as supply lines get back to normal, Garden Centres should have a plenty of shrubs & perennials and this year should be a vintage summer in the garden after all the effort people have put in to their gardening so far.