Caring, kind-hearted and thoughtful to a T, Michelle Clark didn’t think twice about providing free meals to children during lockdown.
Far from just a business, Kemnay Farm Shop proved to be a lifeline for the community during the dark days of the pandemic.
Not only did Michelle’s kind actions relieve some of the pressures families faced, her compassion for the community was evident as she took time to check-in on customers, bringing them comfort through her delicious homebaking.
Society was thrilled to catch up with Michelle and find out all about her amazing farm shop.
Can you tell us about yourself Michelle?
I’m originally from Fife and when I left school I went to college to learn cooking and hospitality. I then moved up to Aberdeen with my mum and dad and I was working at the Dee Hotel where I finished my training. It was at this time that I met my husband Steven, who is from Kemnay and we got married and then we went on to have our three children (Christopher, 34, Daniel, 31, Isla, 17). From then I really didn’t do anything on the hospitality side of things as I worked with my husband and helped him as we’ve got a farm.
How did the farm shop come about?
Jump forward 32 years and obviously the kids are grown up and moving away and we were gifted this building from my husband Steven’s uncle Stanley Clark so we decided to open a farm shop. We’ll be celebrating three years of being open this June. When we first got in and saw the building, there was a kitchen so we thought we could do some takeaway food like bacon rolls and sausage rolls so that’s what we started doing and it just grew from there. In August last year we opened our tearooms upstairs and that has been a huge success as we have people coming for afternoon teas and to sample our scones and bakes. People come in and say “we don’t know how we lived without your shop being here” so yes I’m very humble how people just love us.
What impact did Covid have on the farm shop?
Covid changed the dimensions completely as Lorna Presley who worked with us in the shop wasn’t keen on being in the shop due to Covid so she has been baking in the kitchen ever since. I have to say that she is the best scone maker, you would be hard pressed to find a better scone anywhere else in Aberdeen. One customer said her husband was going to divorce her so he could marry the lady that made the scones. Her scones are just spectacular.
Can you tell us about your homebaking?
We sell hundreds and hundreds of scones in a week. We have people queuing in the morning to get them fresh out the oven. Our afternoon teas have become really popular too. Lorna bakes everything, nothing is bought in for our afternoon teas. So you can sit in and enjoy afternoon tea in our tea room or take it away. Lorna also makes lovely carrot cake, red velvet cake, macaroons, tray bakes, mars bar crispy slice, rocky road and she makes lovely pastry twists. In terms of drinks we use coffee and hot chocolate from Caber Coffee and we have different kinds of tea from Teapigs which are nice.
What do you have on the menu for breakfast and lunch?
We do lovely breakfasts, lunches, soups, sandwiches, paninis and burgers. Lorna also makes amazing pancakes as well. One of most popular dishes is our loaded fries. So we have barbecue pork loaded fries which is just slow cooked pork and barbecue sauce and we have a seasoning that we put on the chips, some cheese and it all melts and it’s just delicious. We’ve also got haggis loaded fries with a whisky sauce or you can have black pudding. We also have a vegetarian option too. Last year we also purchased, from Italy, a whippy ice-cream machine. So we have Jersey dairy ice-cream which is lovely.
Tell us about how you supported children during lockdown?
We did free meals for all the kids in the village. At the height of the pandemic in the first lockdown, we fed the kids from March right through to July. The whole community got involved so we had donations of food and money which enabled us to go on longer than we ever thought. So for 16 weeks we fed the kids right through from Monday to Friday. It was because of the community helping that we were able to do that. We even had the Duchess of York she found out about it and she donated nearly £1,000 to help!
Do you sell produce from your own farm in the shop?
Yes, we’ve got our own herd of Aberdeen Angus cows so all the meat in our butcher fridge is all our own. We also have our own rare breed pigs so all the pork that’s in the chill is our own and we make all of our own pies. Steak pie is obviously popular as is our sausage rolls. In the meat chills we’ve got mince, steak and burgers. Our burgers are wonderful as we’ve got a plain Aberdeen Angus burger, we have a Bennachie burger which has got haggis and cheese through it. We’ve got our Angry Angus with smoked cheese and jalapenos through it. We get cheese supplies from The Damn Fine Cheese Company so we had some cheese from them called ‘The Wee Yeasty Beastie’ so we’ve got a Yeastie Beastie burger.
Do you also use local suppliers?
Yes alongside Lorna’s baking we use the Fly Cup in Inverurie. We like to support them as they’re a charity run coffee shop in Inverurie and they work with adults with learning disabilities. Their produce is really popular. We also stock Bakery Lane as we want to use as many local suppliers as we can.
What is it you enjoy about your job?
I just love my shop and I love the amazing team of staff we have. I love the fact that we know everybody who comes into the shop. It’s a real community spot – it’s so much more than a farm shop.
What’s your plans for the future?
We’re heading to Glasgow next month for the final of Scotland’s Business Awards after winning the Best Farm Shop and the Community shop in the regional final. We’re also going to build an extension at the back of the building with an upstairs so hopefully it will be a little function suite.