It is testament to Tim and Carolyn Barton that despite some setbacks they have not only built a farming enterprise anyone would be proud of but also developed a successful portfolio of diversified businesses.
Having returned to the family farm in the late 1970s after working for a grain trader in Australia and New Zealand, Tim discovered there was not enough work on the 720-acre arable farm. He was able to secure regular contract work on other local farms, eventually reaching 2200 acres.
Back on the family farm, Tim’s first diversification project was to build an 8000t grain store to house the mixture of arable crops his father grew, as well as the crops grown on the contract farms.
“We started bagging wheat, barley and rolled oats and started selling them from an empty farm building,” he says.
From those early days he built an on-farm processing unit, allowing him to process 90t tonnes of grain a week.
Three years later, when a local saddlery shop closed, his wife, Carolyn’s interest in horse riding prompted them to buy the stock and sell it from the small farm shop.
“Since then we’ve just carried on selling,” Tim says. “We decided we needed a bigger shop and built Wadswick Country Store in 2000. Six years later we extended further.”
The shop, based on an American ranch, employs 25 local staff and has a 9200sq ft warehouse along with 12,000sq ft of retail space, stocking saddlery, country clothing and shooting accessories.
The store is also home to a coffee shop which the couple rent out, and it also sells some of the grain Tim bags, though 4500t a year is sold to Countrywide Farmers’ stores across the country.
It is a venture which has worked beyond their expectations.
“It’s become a destination shop,” Carolyn explains. “We get 2500 visitors to the shop every month and while we do some advertising, most of our custom is from word-of-mouth.”
Despite their retail success, it has not always been plain sailing for Tim and Carolyn. In 2003 Tim was diagnosed with cancer, forcing him to change his farming practices dramatically.
“We decided to sell our farm equipment,” he says. “I went from a farm contractor to using a contractor on my own farm.”
Thankfully Tim is recovering his health and while his is no longer actively farming, he still involved in the farm’s management.
“I determine farm policy,” he says. “The contractor took on all the farms I used to do, so I still have a good relationship with the farm owners and their grain is still stored here.”
Not content with a successful shop and feed business, in 1998 the Bartons decided to expand further by converting three barns into holiday accommodation.
Aimed at families and couples spending a weekend in nearby Bath, Carolyn and Tim charge between £400 and £1000/week for the barns, achieving a 70-80% occupancy rate.
Doing much of the conversion himself, Tim started looking renewable heating systems to heat the barns and decided to buy a biomass boiler to reduce the £14,000/yr gas bill.
He now grows 80 acres of miscanthus and heats the barns, staff accommodation, the shop and farmhouse using the crop and waste cardboard packaging from the retail side of the business.
“The business is still developing and expanding,” he says. “The important thing for me is that I am still involved in farming, but I am very excited about the future.”
Farm size: 720 acres
Diversified business: storing grain, selling feed, country store, cafe, holiday barns and a biomass boiler
What the judges liked:
- Attempts to reduce waste
- Excellent targeting of customer needs
- Varied projects which all complemented the farm business