An expanding farm shop diversification project at Great Ayton has been praised by Rishi Sunak.

The Richmond MP and Prime Minister visited Fletchers Farm Shop and Café to see progress on doubling the size of the shop to accommodate a butchery and more space for selling local farm produce.

The Fletcher family started their project 15 years ago when they began selling teas and snacks at Woodhouse Farm.

The conversion of a Dutch barn into a large café followed in 2015 and then a small-scale farm shop a couple of years later.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Rishi Sunak with Mark Fletcher in the extended Fletchers Farm Shop near Great Ayton

The farm, which lies in the shadow of Captain Cook’s Monument with Roseberry Topping and the North Yorks Moors nearby, has become a popular visitor destination.

Mark Fletcher, who runs the farm business with his wife, Kay, and daughter, Lucy, said the farm had disposed of its dairy cattle to concentrate on rearing pigs and sheep for the café and farm shop.

Lucy, 25, runs the farming side of the business while he and his wife look after the shop and café.

He said: “We originally wanted to have greater control over our business and not be at the mercy of fluctuating milk prices. As time has gone on and the business has grown we have taken the opportunity to build a more sustainable operation. Rearing our own meat for the shop and café means we add the value to the product and get the benefit of that added value.”

Mr Fletcher said environmental sustainability of the operation was important. Solar panels had been fitted to the roofs of both shop and café. The farm is also signed up to a five-year Countryside Stewardship agreement, under which they were planting herbal leys and new hedgerows.

During his visit Mr Sunak saw the expanded farm shop and had lunch in the café. He said the foresight of the Fletcher family was commendable.

He said: “They saw an opportunity in their location close to the North York Moors and to Teesside to create a well-loved visitor destination.

“The café is clearly very popular and the farm shop now offers an expanded range of produce, including their own meat and the products from other local farm producers.”

Mr Sunak said he was also pleased to see the business accessing farm support payment through Countryside Stewardship.