A stunning café and wedding venue in rural Somerset
Published: 11 May 2022
Frogmary Green Farm transformed from conference centre to sustainable café and wedding venue over lockdown, with AMC finance helping along the way.
Frogmary Green Farm in Somerset has undergone quite the transformation since it started life as a greenfield site back in 1990.
From hay bales and potatoes, to award-winning conference centre, cookery school, and poultry and arable farm, by 2019 Frogmary Farm was virtually unrecognisable as the modest site Nick and Claire Bragg first invested in with AMC financing.
Over the last two years, the farm has transformed once again, as Nick and Claire shifted their attentions from business and education, to leisure and events, opening the Farm and Field Café and the White Barn wedding venue.
Focus on sustainability
With all the changes they’ve implemented over the years, Nick and Claire have made huge efforts in embracing the environment and improving sustainability across their business model.
One of their biggest successes was the installation of their anaerobic digester in 2016. This green machine uses the farm’s cereals, grass and maize to create energy from biogas.
Today, energy produced from this anaerobic digester is used to power over 90% of Frogmary Green’s business activities, while any excess is sold back to the National Grid. A woodchip biomass boiler also provides renewable heat across the farm.
Throughout the development of the café and wedding venue, Nick and Claire maintained a clear commitment to sustainability, actively seeking out eco-friendly materials and incorporating energy efficient fittings throughout their structures. The café, for example, features automatic lights, self-closing doors and a vault thermostat to help reduce energy usage. They also remain committed to prioritising locally-sourced produce in their food and across their supply chain.
To encourage biodiversity and provide a haven for local flora and fauna, a Wildflower Meadow was opened at the farm in summer 2020.
Success in challenging times
Construction of the Farm and Field Café was already underway when the pandemic hit in March 2020, converting what was once the cookery school and conference venue into a sustainable kitchen, café and restaurant.
With a loan secured through AMC as well as funding raised through working capital, Nick and Claire’s vision – of a bright and airy café with both indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the farm – started to come to life.
In spite of the national lockdown, it quickly became evident that Nick and Claire had hit upon a winning formula. Within months, their business was smashing targets.
“Covid actually accelerated the business almost immediately,” Nick said. “When we first opened it was only for takeaways, but people flocked. We had the perfect set up - fresh locally produced food and plenty of outdoor space. People could treat themselves to a nice lunch and take their food across the grounds to eat in a safe but social environment. And the weather was lovely!”
The café is now open five days a week with between 180 and 250 customers a day. The number of employees has more than quadrupled since opening, from an initial four to 20 – five of whom are chefs.
A rural wedding venue
The café wasn’t the only added venture at Frogmary Green Farm over lockdown. Nick and Claire also had plans to transform the old potato cold store into a wedding venue.
With the costs of conversion already factored into the business plan, Nick and Claire tackled the construction head-on through the first year of lockdown, ready to welcome the first White Barn wedding in May 2021.
Since then, the venue has gone from strength to strength with more than 22 weddings already booked in.
“We've had an amazing amount of interest,” says Nick. “And not just for weddings, we’ve hosted other big parties and events too. We’ve had enquiries from across the county and even messages from France, Australia and America.”
One of the ways Nick has ensured Frogmary Green stays ahead of the game is by continually assessing all business elements and not being frightened to admit when something isn’t working.
“The café and wedding venue are still in the very beginning stages of our long-term business plan,” said Nick.
“We're currently building a day spa – that’ll be ready and open by May 2022. Then, we’ve got a hair and beauty salon on the horizon, a consultation room so we can give couples a more intimate space to plan and discuss their day, a bridal suite, and then finally a nice reception area.
“Phase two will be accommodation with 14 bedrooms for wedding guests. We hope to have the funding together for that within the next couple of years.”
“We’ve always had a good relationship with AMC, they understand our business and our thought process.”