Whitehouse Farm Centre in Northumberland is celebrating following a record breaking summer.
The family business, which celebrated its 20th Anniversary in July, welcomed 14,000 visitors during August - a seven per cent increase on the same time last year.
The boost in visitor numbers represents a landmark year for the Farm Centre, with an eleven per cent increase in its total income during the four weeks of August, which generated over £180,000 in turnover.
Karen Lovatt, Operations Director at Whitehouse Farm Centre, said: “This is a fantastic tribute to the hard work of all our staff and our many wonderful friends both old and new who visited during the summer holidays.
“In 1997 the Farm attracted 20,000 visitors annually and now we see over 100,000 visitors a year. This growth and the income it generates enables us to continue developing our visitor offering and events programme with exciting new activities and attractions for people to come back again and enjoy.”
Whitehouse Farm used to be the biggest egg producer in the North East of England until the nationwide salmonella scandal in 1998. With egg sales in rapid decline, the Slater family had to diversify to survive.
Founder of the business, Keith Slater, now 81, launched a small farm park in 1997 with a selection of animals, a modest tea shop and a couple of play areas. His aim was to educate visitors on farming life in a fun and engaging way after researching what visitors to the county enjoy and what was missing for the local community.
Karen adds: “The family has worked extremely hard to develop the business into one of Northumberland’s favourite visitor attractions. The Farm Centre has grown substantially in two decades mainly through listening to our customers and loyal supporters.
“To mark our 20th Anniversary we made several exciting new investments this year totalling £80,000. They include a new ice cream parlour, full refurbishment of the café to create the Whitehouse Farm Kitchen, extending our animal housing and creating a new interactive indoor play area. We’ve also worked hard to strengthen our branding by refreshing our online platforms and introducing Nelson the Pig, our official farm mascot.
“Recruiting more staff has also been integral to our growth. We recently appointed a dedicated events coordinator to expand our activities programme. Next month we are introducing online ticket sales for day passes, annual memberships and special events to make it even easier for visitors to plan their day out. In 2018 work is also due to start on an exciting new investment to extend facilities within the Farm Park and celebrate our 21st birthday.”
The Centre currently employs over 50 staff and regularly welcomes pupils from many regional schools and community groups on educational farm visits.
It’s home to an impressive collection of snakes and other reptiles, meerkats, skunk, marmoset monkeys, deer, wallabies, llamas, alpacas, ponies, owls and parrots, all living happily alongside the more typical farm animals you would expect to find in the Northumberland countryside; sheep, goats, pigs and cattle.
Providing fun for all ages with a range of indoor and outdoor activities across its 40 acres, visitors to Whitehouse Farm can get hands-on feeding and grooming the animals, enjoy a tractor trailer ride or get to grips with the go-karts, adventure playground and trampolines. Whatever the weather, there’s always something happening at the Farm.
Jude Leitch, Director of Northumberland Tourism, the destination management organisation for the county, said: “Whitehouse Farm Centre is a success story. I’d like to congratulate the team on such a busy summer and a hugely successful 20 years in business.
“We have outstanding tourism talent and distinguished businesses throughout Northumberland and they all play a vital role in helping to ensure our county is a top place to visit year after year.
“Tourism currently makes up 11.8% of Northumberland's economy which is 2.7% higher than the national average and contributes £665 million to the economy.”