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Aberdeenshire’s Forest Farm to open gelateria and farm shop next month

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The organic dairy will now serve up hot drinks and ice cream all year round, with big plans for an al fresco summer experience.

Organic dairy Forest Farm will open the doors to its latest addition next month as it sets itself up for a busy summer, providing coronavirus restrictions have eased.

Launching its new farm shop and gelateria in mid March, co-owner Angus Willis, who owns the business with his mum, Anne, and older brother William, is excited about what potential the new opening will bring to the farm.

Already operating a self-service farm shop on-site, which is home to Scotland’s first milk vending machine, the new extension will see the 50m2 staffed farm shop feature hot drinks to takeaway and a gelateria to enjoy Italian-style gelato from, made with fresh milk from the cows at the farm.

Angus said: “We’re hoping to be open by the second week in March. We had some delays with the snow so we’re working as fast as we can. There’s still so much uncertainty just now so getting tradespeople on-site can be difficult and lead times seem to be much longer, but we’re getting there and aren’t too far away now.

“We’re still in the process of finishing the interiors off, but the main build is all ready and we’re really excited to have everyone here.

The entrance to the new extension which will house a staffed farm shop and gelataria.

“It is a bit of a hybrid as it is a larger farm shop and retail space, and there’s a gelateria where we’ll be serving ice cream and cones all year round now, rather than having a summer pop-up ice cream parlour. We’ll have a bigger range of flavours on offer for takeaway tubs and the gelateria will have more specialist flavours which will be really interesting. We’re working with Figment Coffee in Aberdeen for our takeaway coffee and we’ll also have special organic hot chocolates. In summer there will be milkshakes, too.”

Facilitating demand

Starting preparations for the extension last summer, the family have already extended the size of the car park to ensure they have enough spaces for customers to park safely.

Once the building and interior is finally completed in the coming weeks, Angus and the team will get to work on tidying up the garden and outdoor areas beside the farm so that they have ample space for customers to enjoy their ice cream cones comfortably outside in the summer.

Scotland’s first milk vending machine at Forest Farm.

“We doubled the size of the car park last summer with a view of opening the new premises in spring this year,” said Angus.

“The new premises is to the left of the existing shop. The existing shop is self-service and will continue to be so. The new one is fully staffed and we’ve just taken on some new staff members to accommodate this.

“It will be takeaway rather than having any tables, but we’ll be replanting our garden area for summer and we’ll have a seating area out there. We put in a serving hatch for Covid-19 and in summer we’ll be able to serve out of it on warm days. There’s lots of space out there so lots of potential for summer.”

A gelato serving with the gelateria and farm shop in the background.

“The vending shop will remain available for those who want to quickly get their essentials. It will be an express shop where you don’t really have to wait to get milk, eggs and other essentials.

“The key driver to extend the farm shop was to have an ice cream parlour so we can serve the gelato at its perfect temperature and present it in a traditional way. Although people can buy it to take it home, we’ll be able to serve it perfectly. We’ll be serving it in the way it would be in Italy, so it will be served with a paddle rather than a scoop. You’ll get proper Italian-style gelato.”

Staffing

Taking on five new employees recently to help service the farm shop and gelateria and two new members of staff to assist with production, the organic dairy has had a positive start to 2021 and continues to work to meet demand from its local and national customers.

Brothers William (left) and Angus Willis with one of their dairy cows.

Keen to get more customers back to the premises when lockdown restrictions ease, Angus says Forest Farm has all the right safety procedures in place and can’t wait to see even more local people enjoying their growing range of products.

He added: “Before the new shop there was three family members, my older brother William, myself and my mum, and there’s two full-time members of staff in the production room, and we’ve taken on two new part-time members of the production team making the product and will have two new employees on almost full-time contracts, and three part-time staff, too.

“When things open up properly again we’ll be looking to hold our education tours that we did before the pandemic. We love having educational visits to the farm and show people what we do. We’re really looking forward to welcoming more of our customers back as restrictions ease and we hope they love the new space.

Forest Farm is working with Aberdeen-based Figment Coffee for its coffee.

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