Rishi Sunak MP has praised a successful farm diversification project which has celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.
Neil and Belinda Metcalfe, of Southolme Farm, Little Smeaton, near Northallerton, founded Adventure Toys Ltd in 1989.
Along with other farm businesses at the time of the BSE crisis, their small mixed farm was struggling and they looked for another income stream to support their young family.
Not wanting to do B&B or open a farm shop which many farms were doing at the time, the Metcalfes went into toy retailing after spotting an advertisement from a British company
TP Toys, a climbing frame manufacturer, were looking for farmers willing to sell garden toys from a spare half acre of land.
They used an old cow-byre to create the shop and business has steadily grown over the years concentrating on quality, traditional toys
Today they employ 17 staff and have customers across the UK and the world.
The Metcalfes were early adopters of online retailing, setting up a website in 2000. Today it accounts for 75-80 per cent of the business.
The shop features everything from dolls houses, trainsets, musical toys and creative play while the garden display area has grown to an acre which is full of outdoor toys which can be tried and tested before purchase.
Toys are from a variety of manufacturers and Adventure Toys also offers a service and parts operation for two major manufacturers.
Mr Sunak, who toured the shop and outside display area and spoke to the Metcalfes’ staff, said: “This is a very successful farm diversification business and unlike any others I’ve come across. They didn’t take the obvious diversification options and have carved out a niche for themselves as a major toy retailer in this area.
“It is a excellent example of how a new business can get established, grow, adapt, and thrive in a rural location.”