“The impact on my farm has been quite amazing…we’ve improved our website and added an online shop to it. I’ve seen savings in a lot of unexpected ways – time, cost and in sheer frustration!"
Anne Gow, battled for years with slow internet signal at her activity farm in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside that invites people to enjoy a farming and countryside ‘day out.’ The activity farm specialises in ‘hands on’ farm animal handling and feeding with chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, pigs, sheep, cattle and goats. There are tractor rides, a tea room, an outdoor play area and the bale climb.
Fibre broadband has proved a major boost for the farm’s operations since it was installed in January 2016. Owner, Anne Gow, said: “the difference between the old and new broadband service is huge. We used to get download speeds of around 2Mbps and now we see speeds of above 20 Mbps. We’ve had an unexpected benefit from our firewood sales through the website, which continues to expand and showed an 88% increase last year, with a further 50% increase during our quiet season. In fact, our online sales for firewood in October 2016 were almost more than for the whole of 2014! I would not have been able to do this work on the old broadband connection as the speed was simply too slow to allow me do these sorts of improvements. We are also working hard to review equipment, staffing levels and servicing demand if this sort of trend continues!”
Due to the success of their website, Farmer Gow’s only advertise their firewood through their website and online shop and no longer need to take telephone orders. Anne comments: “it has made the administration of these huge increases manageable. I can stay on top of the orders that come in through the website as I am not wasting my time on a slow internet connection any longer."
Anne plans to expand her business and values the internet as an essential part of her business. Already, two office rental units have been added to the site and are equipped with fibre broadband, which has made the units far more attractive for companies considering locating their business here.
"I also have two other small businesses co-located at the rear of my farm, which can promote free wi-fi:"
- Oxford Oak Camping
Small campsite run by David & Katherine Hazell, which is fully booked most weekends and for much of the school holidays
- The Oxford Yurt
Atmospheric alternative to the usual hotel venues for hen parties run by first time business owner Sarah Lay
Farmer Gow’s continue to expand and have now submitted a planning application to upgrade the chick barn to create an all-weather, all-year round useable space, which Anne explains, “will also enable higher welfare standards when rearing young livestock.”
Anne is constantly striving to improve excellence on the farm and promote green energy: “visitors, including school children, will also benefit from the improved facilities and it will enable us to extend our educational programme into the autumn and late winter months. We’re including green energy as part of the project to explain to visitors about our firewood, rainwater, solar and possibly wind utilisations.”
Anne has applied for a grant through the Rural Payments Agency Growth Programme to fund upgrades to the chick barn, green energy and firewood business and explains, “the application can only be made online, so broadband speed is extremely important. It’s a long and fairly complicated application process, so we need to dip in and out of it to update our submission and paper copies are not permitted.”
If the funding should be approved, Anne predicts two new jobs being created for the firewood business in the autumn and winter, also for a public visitor / school trip advisor in the spring and summer months.
At Farmer Gow’s, they acknowledge the importance of all-year round employment, which if they can expand and make upgrades to their latest projects, would source these exciting new ventures.