More people plan to buy from their local farm shop this Christmas as the Covid-19 pandemic forces a shift in the public's shopping habits.
Throughout the year, farm retailers have provided a lifeline to local communities, sourcing supplies during shortages and delivering produce to vulnerable people.
This looks set to continue, as nearly half of people (40%) plan to buy more from farm shops and local producers during the festive season, according to NFU Mutual.
The rural insurer's research reveals that one in four people have used farm shops or local producers more in 2020.
Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said the rise of rural retailers across the UK 'had been no mean feat'.
"Many farm shops have worked round the clock transforming their business model to meet demand, such as introducing click and collect services," she added.
"Staff have adapted from serving in farm shop cafes to processing and delivering online orders, and stores have redesigned their layouts to offer Covid-safe shopping experiences.”
According to the research, supporting smaller, local businesses was the biggest reason people chose to buy from farms and small producers over the pandemic.
Fresher, better-quality produce was also rated highly, followed by the environmental benefits of buying local food.
Ms Davidson added: “Promisingly, 40% of people say they will use farm shops and local producers more this Christmas and there are encouraging signs that these changes are here to stay.
"In fact, a recent survey of our customers has revealed that shopping locally is the top permanent change they plan to make after the pandemic is over.
"There’s no better way to thank our farm shops and farmers for their hard work this year than by supporting them - not only over the festive season but into 2021 and beyond.”
Research from the Farm Retail Association (FRA) carried out in July found that 92% of farm retailers reported a significant rise in new customers since the first lockdown in March.
Jenny Rose, manager of the FRA said much of this success story had been a result of farm shops being able to replenish shelves.
She said this had "helped establish them as reliable food suppliers, alongside shops providing a relaxed but Covid-safe environment for shopping."