Dawn Stocking has a vision to transform Ballycruttle Farm near Downpatrick.
Dawn Stocking wants to diversify part of her small farm around the hub of a refill shop selling foodstuffs where modern plastic packaging will be a thing of the past writes Jim Masson.
Her environmentally-sustainable idea, Ballycruttle Farm Zero Waste Refill Shop, has floated around in her head for a number of years, and only recently Dawn has started to develop her project being encouraged by friends and family.
She is taking the first steps to make her dream happen, albeit at its first early stage at her farm in Ballycruttle just outside Downpatrick.
“Basically, I want to run a refill shop from Ballycruttle Farm. This concept basically means it minimises packaging hopefully down to a zero level.
“The farm had an old mill back in its day and has the most wonderful features and farm yard buildings and milking parlour.
“I want to preserve the character of the buildings and farmyard and build a shop on this site that sells environmentally-friendly food products and other items.
“Basically I would like to diversify the farm away from agriculture to meet the modern sustainable needs of local food consumers.
“My aim is to provide an environment which is safe for food, and food storage and kickstart with the refill shop. There isn’t a lot of work to be done to the buildings but I do need a few windows and doors and the premises needs brought up to a standard suitable as a food premises.
“The shop itself could supply the local wider community with store cupboard ingredients and will be a zero waste shopping experience.
“Initially it will sell peas, beans, dry foods such as rice and pastas, spices and herbs and a lot more. I hope to have a wide selection of foodstuffs. Possibly I could add on more traditional farm shop foods grown on the farm such as strawberries, rhubarb, potatoes, and different greens etc. There are possibilities here.
“But the initial core idea is that the customer just gets their loose food weighed up and they bring their own storage containers and bags which will help reduce the amount of plastic you bring into your home. It is a ‘weigh and pay’ system, very environmentally friendly.
“It will also free up space in your kitchen cupboards as you are only purchasing quality products which you need and won’t be impulse buying as many people do when they go to a supermarket or large retail food outlet. And they therefore spend more money.”
Dawn’s plan is to later expand her business in phases… after opening the refill shop, to develop into a nearby shed and make a cosy farm soup kitchen and tea room with its very own wood burner. Hmmm, I can just taste the fresh raspberry jam and clotted cream on the scones already amidst the smell of burning logs!
But Dawn’s vision doesn’t stop there.
“The next stage of the development will then involve reactivating the ‘horse walk’ “, said Dawn. “This originally drove the wheel in the mill for grinding down flour. It would be just great to sit and have a cup of Fairtrade coffee or tea and soak up some of this old rural atmosphere in a working environment,” added Dawn.
“Ballycruttle Farm is quite rural and isolated and is the perfect place to come and enjoy a few peaceful minutes in the countryside in beautiful County Down in its tranquil, rural surroundings. It would be very relaxing and therapeutic.
“Over the past two years I have planted out a sunflower field which provides food for the bees, birds and butterflies. You can take a stroll through these yellow giants and see the most colourful dragonflies and insects, not to mention the many toads! The kids just love this place.
“The final phase will be working with local schools and starting to build an environmental education programme with small classes, courses with a classroom which caters for the groups’ needs focussing on old farm crafts and sustainable foodstuffs and healthy living.
“This overall project lends itself to many sustainable possibilities from keeping bees and making honey, growing our own vegetables and fruit, working with other artisan food producers and even creating our very own ice cream parlour.
“I hear that Jersey cows are supposed to provide the best milk for ice cream so that is something I’ll be researching down the line.”
Dawn added: “Now might be a difficult time to start a business many people would think, but there are clear health and economic benefits built into this project centred round a zero approach to packaging waste.
“For example, I do not use cling film but use bees’ wax wraps which is safer and healthier.
“So, I’m at the very start of the project and there is a lot of work to do to get everything moving ahead. Our farm will provide plenty of space to develop this farm shop experience with a difference. It’s very exciting and I hope to have phase one, the refill shop, up and running by the end of the year.”
If you wish to support Dawn on her journey to fulfill her vision, you can make a donation at her Crowdfunding account at:
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