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Why Fen Farm's vending machines continue to be a big hit




With some supermarkets still struggling to keep up with demand, people have turned to supporting their local producers and they, in turn, have found some interesting ways in which to help people purchase what they need.

One such venture is Fen Farm Dairy, in Flixton Road, just outside Bungay, which has operated a series of 24/7 vending machines on site, since 2011, for anybody to come in and get supplies.

Third generation dairy farmer Jonny Crickmore, told the Diss Express how it all began.

Jonny Crickmore with some of the farm’s milk and cheese inside the cow shed.	Picture: Mark Bullimore
Jonny Crickmore with some of the farm’s milk and cheese inside the cow shed. Picture: Mark Bullimore

He said: “The idea came from free range egg huts. We noticed that farmers were using huts to sell their eggs with honesty boxes and we just took that idea and turned it into a cow shed here for our raw milk.

“We realised the location of the farm was in a good spot, with a 30mph zone outside, and we bought a shed and a £600 fridge off eBay and that is how it started.

“The problem was some people were not being completely honest when taking our milk and paying for it, so we started to look for another option.”

After searching for new ideas, they found a vending machine in Europe, so that people could use a glass reusable bottle and fill up what they needed.

Due to its popularity, they started to make their own cheese, Baron Bigod, and butter, which soon found its way into new sliding door vending machines in 2013 and 2015.

A coffee machine, with the finest beans and raw milk from the farm, followed in 2018, with bread and meat completing the set of four vending machines in 2019 and this year.

Mr Crickmore said the machines have been a massive success and, with the outbreak of coronavirus, their popularity has increased.

The 39-year-old said: “We obviously had these here before the virus, but recently it has gone through the roof.

“On Saturday, we sold around 307 litres of milk – people just kept coming. They are proving really popular, especially as we are open 24/7 here and people can come in whatever they are wearing as no one will see them.

“We have made the machines contactless over the last year, meaning they are perfect for people at the moment.”

With eggs from a neighbouring farm, cheese from St Judes and their online shop, Mr Crickmore feels they can keep people well fed.

He said: “Other than fruit and veg really, we have managed to tick most of the staples in life and, as we are also selling meat, we have most of the basics people need.

“I think people normally associate vending machines with junk food, but we’re selling good things – and that catches people out as they do not expect it.

“Obviously, when we first got these, we had no idea that the virus would be coming, but now this is such a big part of keeping our business going, so I thank everyone that has and is coming to the cow shed to get what they need.

“I think it is just great so see people now using their local producers more, supporting us as we support them. I am really proud of that.”

For more details about Fen Farm Dairy and their products, click here.


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