Since the arrival of the first vending machine in 2018, the Stephen family’s well-known Lower Thorneybank Farm Shop near Rothienorman in Aberdeenshire has only got bigger and better.
Over the last five years, the enterprise has expanded hugely, not only by the produce it sells in the modern premises, but also by the thousands of customers and fans who follow the Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Lower Thorneybank Farm Shop was established in 1979 by Stuart’s father Eric, when he sold home-grown vegetables in a wheelbarrow at the side of the road, before using an old horse cart and a stall.
The shop is now run by Stuart and Catherine, together with their family Neil, Megan, Murray and Penny, who also farm an arable and livestock enterprise, growing vegetables for the shop.
In the last five years, the shop has now become home to three vending machines, a coffee machine and a newly installed milk machine, all of which have been a great hit with new and old customers who pass by on the B9001 Rothienorman to Inverurie road.
The original vending machine is used for selling a huge variety of vegetables, sweeties and home bakes made by Catherine, who operates up to four ovens at one time from her bakehouse next to the farmhouse.
In 2o19, the chilled machine arrived at Lower Thorneybank Shop and allows for the sales of meat and fish, and other products such as ready meals and desserts from the popular Hudsons Catering.
A spiral vending machine is also used for selling everyday favourites such as sandwiches, salad boxes, juices, crisps and chocolate, while the frozen freezer keeps Rizza’s Ice Cream, and Downies Fish produce.
The farm grows virtually all of the vegetables sold in the shop to include tatties, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
Meat is sourced from Presly Butchers, Louise’s Farm Kitchen, Millers of Speyside, and Glenkilrie Larder – which brings a pop-up shop to Lower Thorneybank, on the first Sunday of each month.
Murray said: “This year, we had a bumper crop of vegetables and we also grew celery for the first time which worked really well.
“Our pumpkin patch was also done as a trial this year and seemed to be successful. We hosted a ‘Pumpkin Extravaganza’ weekend around Halloween, which saw more than 200 children and parents came along.”
The shop’s latest investment is a milk machine which the family installed in August, offering fresh milk and flavoured milkshakes to customers.
It follows growing demand after the family sold milk from Graham’s.
The milk for the machine is sourced locally from Invercamey Dairy at Fyvie, which supplies 60 litres of fresh milk per day to Lower Thorneybank, with extra 30 litres on top of that supplied at the weekend.
“Milkshakes have become very popular, offering six flavours to include banana, chocolate and strawberry,” said Murray.
“Customers can either bring their own 1-litre clean bottle or can buy a reusable bottle at the shop.”
They also supply Tullochbeg Turkeys, and roasting joints from the meat suppliers.
The shop is open seven days a week from 6am to 9pm.