Could what is happening at New Lodge Farm, Bulwick, Northamptonshire (01780 450493), be a pointer to the future of food shopping, farming and the countryside? Simon and Sarah Singlehurst have a traditional farm shop – nothing especially unusual in that – but attached to it is a cafe, where shoppers can not only sample the food, but also enjoy being on an ordinary working farm. The hens cluck about, there are lambs in the fields, and on the table in front of the hungry shopper is, perhaps, an apple pie with cream or a buttered teacake, made locally by farming wives. ‘People can drive up, read the papers and buy produce made less than 30 miles away,’ says Simon Singlehurst.

‘The cakes and pies are made by wives who’ve decided to support their farms in this way,’ says Sarah. ‘One has a husband with an arable and beef farm; she converted rooms for B&B, so her kitchen passes all the regulations for making steak-and-kidney pie and so on.’ The food is traditional. ‘People seem to want oxtail and brisket from our butchery, as opposed to the expensive cuts.’ As well as selling real homemade food, free of chemicals, the cafe is going to offer light lunches of soup and jacket potatoes from about Easter.

The Singlehursts seem to have found a magic formula: townies come for a relaxing shopping trip and a snack at a real farm (so unlike the supermarket experience in every respect), and local farms add to their income by selling cheese, butter, eggs, vegetables and homemade meals.