Also happy sheep, goats, donkeys, cows & humans!
Bordering Brookside is Adam's Happy Hens, you may have seen their animals on the right as you pass Holymoor Road on the way to Baslow. Many of you may have walked through the farmyard in recent months as you’ve taken your ‘daily exercise’, they really are part of the community.
Adam's Happy Hens started out in 2014, selling a few eggs, he never expected they’d have to close their doors one day as demand for their services outstripped their ability to cope safely!
The farm itself, ‘The Yews’ is a traditional dairy farm and Adam is the third generation. His grandma was a ‘land girl’ in the war, developed a love of farming and took on the farm. She was well known locally, delivering milk to Holymoorside using a horse and cart. Adam’s Dad continues the family business operating a herd of dairy cows although the herd size has reduced in recent years as retirement beckons. “I can’t see Dad stopping though”, laughs Adam, “he’ll have a herd after he ‘stops’, probably a few beef cows as a hobby.”
Alongside the cows, the hens roam in fields in front of the farmhouse and share space with ducks, geese, sheep, goats and the donkeys Beatrix and Bramble.
“It's Dad I have to thank for the business”, Adam says. “I’ve grown up running around the farm. I started with 40 hens in a small barn and was selling eggs each day from a wooden box I’d made with, an honesty box, next to the house at the end of the drive to the farm.
“Dad said ‘no one will ever drive down here to pick up eggs’, well that was it, like many sons I vowed to prove him wrong.”
The number of eggs they sold started to increase and Adam needed a bigger box, then a small wooden ‘Wendy’ house and today they run a small, friendly farm shop which has already expanded to twice its original size. And it’s not just eggs, Adam's Happy Hens have expanded their range of local products.
“We pride ourselves in supplying groceries from local producers”, says Adam. “We have some great people producing some fantastic goods, meat from Redferns in Buxton, bread from Henstocks, dairy products from Peak District Dairy, a selection of pies, vegetarian and vegan options from Peak Feast at Youlgreave, flour from Cauldwell's Mill, Derbyshire Oatcakes, sauces from a number of very local makers, including Teresa Lambarelli's pasta sauces, potted meat from Granny Mary’s, local honey from Derbyshire Honey, Peak Dairy Ice Cream, fudge from The Bull Baking, brownies from The Rocking Rocky Road ... I can’t list everything but be assured they have a large range available and as mentioned a good range of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free products.
In addition to food they also stock firewood by the bag, hay and straw, chicken feed, plants and you can even buy your own hens from them, so you can enjoy eggs from your own garden, plus they have a small range of hand painted greetings cards by local artist, Charlotte Norman Art.
“The plan has been to diversify, and it's been successful. Harriet (Adam’s partner) has always helped out in the shop but left her old job to work full time in the business in 2019 after we had a problem with a bit of shop lifting which made it clear that the honesty box had to go.”’ says Adam.
“When I came along it enabled us to look at what we were doing and step up a gear”, Harriet explained. “We were able to extend the product range and provide a real farm shop service. It’s taken a while, but it was about this time that it started to be something which earned us a living.”
Harriet and the team at one of their recent charity events, the last coffee weekend raising £1667.07 for Ashgate Hospicecare.
So, the last few months. On Sunday 22 March, when lockdown had just started, they were forced to close the shop to reassess how they were going to operate to meet the massive swing in demand.
“People stopped going to supermarkets and looked for alternatives, where they wouldn’t bump into so many people”, explains Adam. “But, it only took a few days for the same problem to hit us here at the shop, too many customers in a small space, risking both us and customers alike, so we had no option but to close and figure out a way forward that would work for everyone.”
Quickly thinking, the team started an order and collection service helped by others including Harriet’s sister Charlotte, placing their stock list on Facebook, taking orders via FB Messenger or over the phone, they’d sort orders for the next day, call people for payment details and ask them to come up and collect their shopping.
This process has been really successful during lockdown and it’s only recently they have opened up their shop to drop in customers, serving people from a hatch, not letting people into the shop and controlling numbers by still offering orders.
It’s been a hectic time for the farm but one that has put Adam's Happy Hens on the shopping list of many people in the community. During lockdown, and still, they offered a limited delivery service to those who were vulnerable or self-isolating.
“Throughout the lockdown many local independent businesses have had to adapt rapidly to the new way of working. Some, like us, opening up to collection or delivery services, Mark at The Bull’s Head in Holymoorside established The Bull Baking Co - he produces fudge, bread and pastries some of which we stock in the shop.”
So, what’s next I ask? “We’ve a couple of medium-term plans, a single larger hen house which will allow us to grow the flock to 1000 birds, we have about 700 at the moment and then to improve the driveway to the shop.”
“Longer term it would be great to have a new purpose-built shop with more space, perhaps a café and somewhere that we can continue to allow people and children exposure to the animals, I love them and want to enable others to get close up to them, something simple and accessible.”
Today Adam's Happy Hens are open midday to 3pm every day at the hatch, where they ask that you respect social distancing measures, hand sanitiser is available, and collections placed are available to collect on Tues, Weds, Fri & Sat.
But what Adam and Harriet, and I suspect all local independents, including S40 Local want you to remember is, as lockdown eases and supermarket delivery slots become easier to obtain… our local independents who came to the rescue when things were tough NEED YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT, it’s the only way they can thrive and be here every day for us!
Thanks to Adam and Harriet for taking the time out to talk to me and oh, if you’re a fan of pies… I can wholeheartedly recommend their homities!
Facebook: Adam's Happy Hens Farm Shop
Words: Paul Chapman
Images: Adam's Happy Hens