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Scotland's larder: Nikki Storrar of Ardross Farm, Fife

Cat Thomson talks to Nikki Storrar of Ardross Farm in Elie about the family’s success in diversifying from being a slave to supermarket demands to running one of Scotland’s most popular farm shops.

Published: April 27, 2022

Ardross is a family farm in the East Neuk of Fife run by a combination of mum, Fiona Pollock, and her daughters Claire Pollock, Nikki Storrar and Tara Clark.

Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Back: Sisters Claire, Nikki, Tara with Nikki's children and Robbie (3) and Jamie (6) with granny, Fiona in the front

Originally farmed by husband and wife team, Robb and Fiona but, following Robb's death, Nikki tells me: "My mum and my sister officially run it and I'm employed in the business."

Sister act

The girls all helped out on the farm growing up, but a farming life wasn't what any of the girls had planned.

Nikki says: "Getting an education was always the priority and Mum and Dad always encouraged us to go away to experience the world."

She now runs the farm’s shop but studied Geography at Glasgow university with the intention of being a teacher. She returned to help when the farm shop first opened. "I really loved it. I didn't really give it a second thought about applying to do teaching. I have never left."

Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Ardross Farm shop

Her parents were supportive and gave her responsibility. "They listened to my ideas, and let me expand but we all worked together. It is very rewarding because I love food and I'm very passionate about where food comes from."

Her sister, Claire, studied accountancy at Aberdeen University but phoned her parents one day and asked to come back to the farm - she couldn't stand being in an office and wanted to be a farmer.

Tara studied PE at Edinburgh University and is a teacher nearby but is often called in to help at Ardross; her husband is also a farmer and she has recently bought her own cattle.

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Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Sisters Tara, Claire and Nikki

Mum's the word

Nikki explains that their mum is the main driving force behind the business. "She is an integral part of it, pushing us to do more, better."

The reason they opened the farm shop in 2005 was their parents couldn't make the farm pay, they had tried to diversify but nothing worked.

However, it was their father who had the original idea of selling direct instead of growing for supermarkets. 

Final straw

Nikki explains the final straw came when: "We had grown Dutch white cabbages and the supermarket decided to do a buy-one-get-one-free deal, so that means we only get paid for one in every two cabbages, just because the supermarkets decided. It was soul destroying to spend all year growing a crop and then get paid pennies for it."

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Nikki explains the girls didn't think much of their father's hairbrained scheme: "We thought it was ridiculous. Why would you come to a farm to buy food instead of the supermarket?"

Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Meat raised at Ardross Farm is then sold in the farm shop

The shop started on a small scale selling their beef from two freezers in a shed. Nikki says: “When it first opened we had no idea about retail. We knew we were producing a product that we thought people would like."

Regeneration

The idea took off, and Nikki explains: "Every time somebody asked for something we took note and gradually increased the range. We now sell thousands of different products from Scotland and Britain."

They also support other local businesses with produce from 40 different suppliers from within a ten-mile radius of the farm.

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Initially the farm shop was just meant to provide an extra income but its success now means, "All of our beef, lamb, mutton, vegetables are all sold direct to the customer."

Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife

Nikki says: "It has changed everything on the farm, we underestimated the workload, farming is hard work but retail is all consuming."

They now farm using regenerative methods which Nikki explains, "means it doesn't look perfect but it is a better way of growing vegetables. We walk out in the field to cut the fresh veg in the morning and bring it into the shop. So it is fresh."

Size matters

Adjusting to a different scale of growing took time as in the beginning they grew too much and it was all ready at once.

Now they grow all the vegetables from seed in a polytunnel everyday and it's then transplanted into the field, so they have a continual supply. Nikki adds: “We definitely still haven't got it right but it is a lot better than it was."

Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Growing their own

Eight years ago they stopped ploughing altogether and began sowing the crop directly into the stubble of the previous crop.

They have also brought sheep onto the farm, and operate a five-year rotation of crops. "This lets the soil recover and gather nutrients," says Nikki. The farm is Pasture for life certified which means the cattle and sheep are fed a pure grass diet.

Pasture for Life

Now demand for their meat has now outstripped what they can produce. “The whole idea was we wanted to make our farm sustainable, but we are now at a crossroad.. We might be cutting off our nose of to spite our face but we really want people to trust us and we want them to know that the meat we have on the farm is ours."

They farm cattle called 'Stabilisers', which are a composite breed of Red Angus, Hereford, Gelbvieh and Simmental, which are small and hardy. The advantage is that they grow quickly and able to stay outside in all weathers.

Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Stabiliser cattle at Ardross

Nikki tells us that, "they are very good mothers and are able to give birth on their own without any help from us."

They also have a low maintenance hardy sheep breed, called EasyCare. "They do what they say on the tin. They don't need to be sheared, their fleece sheds naturally, and they lamb outside on their own, and they thrive on grass."

As they don't bring new animals onto the farm, this allows them to selectively breed their herd for temperament and finishing speed and reduces the risk of disease.

Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Easycare Sheep make good mothers

Retail space

The farm shop has grown and takes up the ground floor of the old hayloft, Nikki says: "We are by no means the biggest farm shop in Scotland but we are very lucky that people do their regular shopping with us, we have a good loyal following of customers."

The ethos is that you can easily have local food in your life. Nikki explains: "In the shop we try to sell everything you need to produce a meal but it is all locally sourced. You can come in and do an everyday shop or just buy something special."

Ardross Farm and shop Elie Fife
Ardross Farm shop

In addition to local custom they get holiday makers and walkers on the coastal path popping in. Nikki adds: “They enjoy being in a farm shop and experiencing local food. Who doesn't love a farm shop, well that is what I think now."

Happy Shopper

Nikki feels having no retail experience was an advantage, "We just asked questions and tried to learn as much as possible and were guided by our customers as opposed to having preconceived idea."

The business grew from selling just meat, they added vegetables, and then made the decision to sell Doddington’s ice cream in summer, Nikki says: "I remember my mum telling me what the minimum order was, and being absolutely terrifying but it was really popular. It just grew arms and legs."

Ardross Farm shop Elie Fife
Ardross Farm shop

Sadly their father died a few years ago but Nikki says: “He was just so proud that all of a sudden people were coming in and saying,- 'that steak was absolutely amazing, we had never tasted anything like it.' Dad was always in awe of the fact we were selling direct and that people would come and back."

Gordon Ramsay on tour

Word about how good the farm is soon spread and Gordon Ramsay, Gino D'Acampo and Fred Sirieix have even filmed here.

Nikki says: ""The three of them were absolutely crazy. I wasn't a fan of Gordon before he came to the farm but I'm definitely one now, he was genuinely interested. It has rerun several times and you can always tell every time it goes out because there is a spike on the website."

On the day of filming the haar came in and it was freezing, but it didn't dampen their enthusiasm, she said.

Local heroes

They courier produce throughout the uk, but Nikki said; "we have actually decided, customers need to phone the old fashioned way and order it. This means we can safeguard supplied for local people who come in all the time."

The next generation on the farm are Nikki's two boys, Jamie and Robbie who are already helping, Nikki tells me, "during lockdown they were very much a feature of the farm shop."

Nikki said, "I know family businesses aren't always easy but we all get on incredibly well even though we are all very different. We rarely fall out or have an angry discussion"

Futureproof

The future plans for the farm are to provide a better take away option for walkers on the nearby coastal path. Nikki explains, "we have beautiful beaches on the farm and although we do takeaway teas and coffees we would like to do that better with our Ardross-to-go options."

They have an onsite production kitchen where they prepare over 200 products, Nikki explains, "we try and sell all of our animal, so nose to tail. If we have a surplus of stew we make steak pies, or too much mince then we make meatball ready meals."

They also want to have more farm events, and are hoping to do pre-booked farm tours; Nikki said, "So many people are really interested in what we are doing. Our aim on the farm is that anyone can walk onto the farm on any day and we will be proud of what we are doing."

Ardross Farm
Elie
KY9 1EU 

Tel: 01333 331400

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Catriona is based in the Scottish Borders and works as part of the audiovisual team at the Scotsman but she reviews restaurants for Scotland on Sunday and writes for Scotsman Food and Drink in her spare time.

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