Shortly before the COVID-19 lock-down in March 2020, March House Farm Shop asked for recommendations on Facebook and my name was put forward.
The business, a local farm shop, had planned for some time to put their business online and start an e-commerce business alongside their bricks and mortar shop. The public rush to shop for a summer of isolation meant that their plans were now urgent.
The road map wasn't yet clear, but after initial discussions we decided what the priority products might be and made a plan to photograph them as soon as possible. As luck would have it, the banning of mass gatherings happened at about the same time and some of my other jobs were cancelled, meaning we could get started immediately.
March House Farm is a mixed livestock and arable farm near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. They are renowned for the quality of their beef, lamb and pork, all of which is bred and reared on the farm, and the diversification of the farm shop gave them the opportunity to sell other quality local products with minimal "food miles". When the corona-virus outbreak in the UK prompted the public to panic buy, March House Farm Shop had full shelves of their own and other suppliers products when the supermarkets did not.
Alongside March House Farm Shop was a thriving cafe, a more recent addition, very popular with regular clients who could meet and eat quality local food as well as do their shopping.
At this point in time the cafe was still open, with the clientele spreading themselves as far as possible to minimise risk. I set up the most minimal of food photography studios in the corner of the room and set about shooting as much as I could against time pressure.
One of our first discussions had been about the style of the photography. Co-owner Jo had been working with me and we had both quickly agreed that a very styled food images, with props, herbs, attractive surfaces etc. were going to be too time consuming. Instead, we decided to go for as clean and white a background as was possible without editing in order to get the images online as fast as possible. Jo had been waiting on her usual IT company to add the e-commerce capability to their existing website for the shop and cafe but that had not yet happened. As a result I photographed for two days and registered a new domain, built the platform and started populating the shop in the evenings in between.
A few days into the shooting the UK was placed in lock-down and everyone was told to stay at home. We queried where we stood and were told that as food producers we were key workers and that the shop should go live as soon as we could do it.
We launched March House Farm Shop online with a core product list most requested by customers: ready-made food and veg boxes, essentials boxes containing bread, milk eggs etc. and meat boxes designed to feed a family for a week. As time moved on I photographed, edited then added other products which were requested and where time allowed improved the written descriptions of existing products.
It was such a successful launch that on two occasions we had to pause the shop to allow us to catch up but as the existing staff adapted to new roles answering the phone or packing orders for delivery we caught up and at the time of writing the online shop is a major contributor to the business. The shop can only allow two people in at a time so queues do build and the ability of people who are isolating to order online has proved very popular.
The business has received a great deal of praise for its efforts both online and in adapting the shop. It has featured in several newspaper and magazine articles, won a Food Hero Award from the Great Food Club.