Downpatrick-based Meadow Farm launches new £200k tearoom and shop

Pictured in the new tearoom are Richard and Sharon Orr from Meadow Farm and Derick Wilson, business development manager at Ulster Bank

THE north's first monitor farm has launched a newly refurbished shop and tea room as part of a £200,000 investment.

Meadow Farm, owned by Downpatrick farmer Richard Orr and his father Jackie, has doubled its workforce to 10 following the major investment, which has seen the creation of a new 2,000 sq ft tea room on site.

The Orr family first opened a farm shop 20 years ago along the main Belfast to Downpatrick route, where its own produce was sold direct to consumers.

Over time the fresh produce selection gradually increased and Richard's wife began selling homecooked foods and a growing selection of sweet treats and baked items.

In 2012 the family business opened its purpose-built farm shop and the latest investment marks another significant milestone for the business.

Richard Orr expects the new tea room to produce a windfall for the adjacent farm shop.

“Our produce is seasonal and generally the farm shop was restricted to opening just two days per week as a way to keep associated running costs down," he said.

"The investment in the tea room means we'll have the staff and resources on site to keep the farm shop open up to five days per week.

"We're anticipating this will result in rapid growth in sales of our own produce as well as that of other local artisan producers we hold stock of as we drive increased footfall to the site.”

The investment from Meadow Farm has been supported by Ulster Bank and a £35,000 grant from the Rural Business Investment Scheme.

Derick Wilson, business development manager at Ulster Bank added: “Meadow Farm is a long-standing customer with us and over that time we have seen the business grow and diversify. Richard understands the importance of reinvesting to continue to secure a more sustainable future for the business. This latest investment is steering the business in a new direction, one that adds fresh revenue streams to supplement the income generated from arable farming.”

In April, Meadow Farm was announced as the first farm in Northern Ireland to be selected as a monitor farm.

Part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Farm Excellence Programme, the three-year project is farmer-led and farmer-driven. It is designed to distribute knowledge to others in the agri sector about new ideas, developments and research.

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