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Easton Farm Park owners ‘excited’ as they prepare to welcome visitors again

PUBLISHED: 05:12 27 June 2020 | UPDATED: 08:25 27 June 2020

Fiona Siddall , owner of Easton Park Farm, with her daughter Flo and some baby chicks Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Fiona Siddall , owner of Easton Park Farm, with her daughter Flo and some baby chicks Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A major Suffolk farm attraction estimates it will take the business at least a year or two to recover from the aftermath of the coronavirus lockdown.

Fiona Siddall, owner of Easton Farm Park with her Suffolk Punch Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFiona Siddall, owner of Easton Farm Park with her Suffolk Punch Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Easton Farm Park closed for three months on March 20 in the wake of the crisis – but is planning to reopen on July 1 as restrictions ease.

“We are very excited to welcome our customers back to the farm,” said Fiona Siddall, who runs the family-owned diversification.

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The closure came just as the business began gearing up for the busy spring season, with new animals born and the Easter break approaching.

Instead of welcoming the crowds, Fiona ended up having to furlough her entire workforce, bar one. The farm team comprises five full-time, and 16 part-timers – as well as 12 students.

Fiona Siddall, owner of Easton Farm Park with her Suffolk Punch Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFiona Siddall, owner of Easton Farm Park with her Suffolk Punch Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“We have taken a huge hit, having lost 40% of our annual income so it will take at least one to two years to return to where we were in early March,” she admitted.

But she is optimistic for the attraction’s future, and is looking forward to getting the business – which includes a farm visitor attraction and holiday cottages, 70-pitch campsite and glamping – back on its feet.

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“Many more people will be making new lifestyle choices as a result of spending three months at home. We are hoping that this means businesses such as ours, where children and families can enjoy time together in the outdoors, will be able to benefit from local tourism and a new appetite for outdoor living.

Fiona Siddall, owner of Easton Farm Park with her Suffolk Punches  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFiona Siddall, owner of Easton Farm Park with her Suffolk Punches Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“You have to be optimistic to run a business. Coronavirus has come out of the blue and devastated the country in so many ways. I hope that we can all use our common sense to respect each other’s space, wash our hands regularly and continue the real sense of community that has helped so many people through this terrible crisis.” Every household and business had been affected by the crisis, and many lives changed forever, she said.

The farm was set up in 1974 as a farm diversification and educates and entertains thousands of families and school groups each year. The main business – a day visitor attraction with farm animals and activities – is set in 35 acres of Suffolk countryside.

Over the last three months, Fiona and the farm’s livestock manager have been keeping in touch with staff and customers via Facebook.

“When lockdown started, we were still bottle feeding a dozen lambs, who are now all happily running around the fields. Piglets, kid goats, baby bunnies, guinea pigs, calves and countless chicks and ducklings have all been born during lockdown so we have had our hands full caring for our cute flock,” said Fiona.

“I was obviously gutted to be closing the farm at the loveliest time of year, but my key concern was to ensure that we could keep as many of our team as possible safe at home, and the furlough scheme has been a godsend to allow us to achieve this.”

Fortunately, the majority of the farm is outdoors and offers huge amounts of space, she said.

“At the moment we are unable to offer many of our hands-on activities so we are formulating more fun that families can enjoy together as they follow our one way route around the farm, exploring some of the wilder areas of the farm that don’t usually receive many visits.

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