From its origins 40 years ago as a roadside shed, Canalside Farm has become a thriving retail, dining and events operation, which was recognised in the 2023 Farm Shop & Deli Retailer Awards.

Taking its name from the nearby Trent & Mersey Canal, the business was founded by Chris and Wendy Barton as a commercial fruit-growing operation.

Chris had studied horticulture at university and travelled to New Zealand – where he met Wendy, a teacher at the time. The couple married in New Zealand and moved to England in 1983.

With Chris’s interest in horticulture and Wendy’s family background in dairy farming, the pair were keen to have a farm of their own. They spent more than a year searching in England, before finding the Staffordshire farm in an area Chris knew relatively well after going to school nearby.

“They both loved the fact that there was a very modest, but very active, shed at the front of the farm that sold produce direct to the public,” explains Anna Barton, Canalside’s head of business development and Chris and Wendy’s daughter-in-law.

Farm shops were a new concept at the time, but the Bartons liked the idea of being able to control their own destiny by selling direct to the public, rather than being reliant on supplying supermarkets.

Canalside Shop Frontage

Source: Canalside

Growing soft summer fruits, kitchen vegetables and garden plants, Canalside originally sold mainly to shoppers from the nearby village of Great Haywood.

As the business grew, it moved into an adjacent packing shed, with two thirds converted in 2010 into a farm shop with a butchery and deli counter. Nine years later, Canalside expanded to fill the rest of the packing shed, enabling the creation of a scratch bakery.

Today, Canalside remains a fruit farm, but it is the smaller part of the business compared with the retail, café and events sides.

“Locally sourced produce is at the heart of everything we do, and we believe our homemade produce and products are what make us stand out from the masses,” says Barton, adding that products Canalside has a hand in producing account for more than 60% of turnover.

The business’ premises are set out to celebrate these items, with seasonal fruit & veg displayed at the entrance of the shop.

“Our homegrown produce always takes pride of place on the very first table as you enter the farm shop,” says Anna. “Our fruit & veg area has, and always will be, our statement piece, and we think it is one of the best around.”

Canalside also has a pick-your-own operation, running from spring with strawberries, then raspberries, and pumpkins throughout October.

“We love connecting people with the growing process, especially children, so that our customers feel truly connected to their food,” says Anna.

Canalside all departments

Source: Canalside

Local sourcing is a focus for the business, and Canalside works with farmers and producers to keep food miles low where possible. Everything stocked is ethically and responsibly produced or reared.

“Being sustainable has always been important to us, but as we grow it becomes even more so. We want the farm to work in harmony with the rural area, not against it,” says Anna.

That’s why the business overhauled its packaging this year and offers reusable bags and incentives for customers who use their own containers.

“We have taken great joy this year, visiting as many of our local suppliers as we can to celebrate our 40-year anniversary and connect our customers to the fabulous people behind the products they see in the shop.”

Chris and Wendy are now staring their retirement, with their eldest son, Geoff, running the day-to-day operation of the retail and hospitality side of Canalside.

Plans for the future include extending the café and a larger production kitchen so additional homemade products can be offered, such as jam and gelato made from fruit grown on the farm.

Canalside Butchery, Bakery & Deli

Source: Canalside

When the shop first opened, it was run on a skeleton staff of four, with Geoff and his brother Doug pitching in on weekends. It now employs a mix of 64 part-time and full-time staff across the site.

“All our team are local to us, and we feel we offer a flexible place to work that works well alongside family life,” says Anna, adding that seeing Canalside grow organically has been a high point of running the business.

“The awards we have won in recent years also make us feel it is not just us that love our business. The industry recognises the hard work we have put in, which feels amazing,” she adds.

Those awards include the title of Midlands Large Business of the Year in the 2023 Farm Shop & Deli Retailer Awards.

“It means so much to us, especially as it happened in our 40th year of business, it is testament to the hard work that everyone has put in across all these years and we couldn’t be prouder.”


2024 Farm Shop & Deli Retailer Awards open for entry

The search for the stars of the independent food and drink retail sector is underway. The free-to-enter 2024 Farm Shop & Deli Retailer Awards, which are organised by The Grocer publisher William Reed, celebrate specialist retailers and recognise their achievements. To find out more about the awards, or to enter or nominate a business, visit the Farm Shop & Deli Show Awards website