WHEN COVID-19 struck, Low Howgill Butchery and Deli owner Jennie Allison and fellow shopkeepers in Appleby got together with the town’s Emergency Response Group to organise a unique community order and collect service.

Quick thinking and a lot of organisation got the service up and running when the first lockdown was imposed in March. This meant that while many people struggled to secure supermarket delivery slots, the Cumbria town’s residents were able to get all their food, cleaning products and toiletries from one place without queuing.

During Lockdown, the Appleby order service was handling 300 orders a week – plus deliveries to elderly and vulnerable people in the area.“It’s been extremely stressful – but fantastic that the town’s shops were able to work together to help the town at a time of crisis when people were really struggling to get food,” said Jennie.

“This year’s been really hard work but we’ve got a great, enthusiastic young team working in the shop and the butchery unit, and it’s been a real boost to my spirits to have them onboard.”

Appleby NFU Mutual Agent Amanda Wallbank looks after the insurance for farms and rural business across the neighbourhood and is a member of the town’s emergency response group which was formed to help people through devastating flooding four years ago. “There’s a tremendous community spirit in Appleby – and when people and businesses work together they can really get things done - whether it’s coping with a flood or a pandemic,” said Amanda.

With Christmas approaching, business is booming at Low Howgill, with Jennie and her team working flat out to meet demand for the shop’s festive specialities - Christmas Cumberland sausage with spiced plum chutney, together with a twist on ‘pigs in blankets’ - a Cumberland sausage wrapped in streaky bacon and called a ’pigs tail’.

The huge surge in demand through 2020 has resulted in Low Howgill providing local job opportunities as it has expanded its workforce from eight to 12 this year.

Low Howgill is run by Jennie and Steve Allison. Opened in August 2015, Steve (the Butcher) and Jennie (the Baker) source traditional breeds of beef and lamb meat from Jennie’s family farm, with pork and chicken sourced locally too. The deli offers a range of pies (made by Jennie) and condiments sourced as locally as possible from the Eden Valley’s larder.

All the shop’s beef is Shorthorn, born and bred on the family farm near Milburn. The cattle are grass fed and beef is hung for at least 14 days to help to mature the flavour and texture.

The shop’s pork suppliers are all local, small scale farmers, typically having three or four or sows and one boar.British breeds of pig, such as Tamworth and Saddleback are used, and are mainly outdoor reared, coming inside only when the weather is bad.

The shop’s commitment to quality food and supporting the local rural economy has resulted in a string of awards.

COVID-19 has led to a quarter of people surveyed increasing their use of farm shops and local producers this year. Forty percent plan to use farm shops and local producers more this Christmas; Farm retailers have transformed their businesses.