Spend five minutes with Roger Mercer and his sons Alec and Robert and it’s easy to see what makes them diversification award-winners.
A fourth generation arable and pig farmer, Roger Mercer has developed the farm into a profitable business which is sure to secure the farm’s future for generations to come.
The 1619ha (4000 acre) farm in Staffordshire has been transformed from a commodity pig unit to one that produces high-welfare, free-range premium pigs and chickens.
Livestock are sold to butchers across the country through Medium Rare, the meat marketing and distribution company set up by Alec and his friend George Finch.
Through Medium Rare the Mercers have complete control of the entire supply chain, allowing them to obtain a premium on their produce and manage rising commodity costs at a time when other pig producers have been driven from the industry because of poor returns.
With the help of an ERRD grant, Roger has developed several redundant farm buildings into 16,000sq ft of office space and 150,000 sq ft of storage space.
The farm’s traditional arable enterprise also remains an important side of the business. The Mercers are part of a joint venture to farm 2630ha (6500 acres), which includes 2023ha (5000 acres) of wheat.
A substantial amount of that land is managed as part of higher level environmental stewardship, under which the Mercers have replanted species-rich grasslands and re-flooded meadows.
While each of the Mercer’s individual enterprises are all impressive, it is perhaps the way they are all managed together as a family which is most commendable.
Working on the basis that each of the businesses has to be able to support itself separately, if it does not make a profit, it is not worth continuing with.
“Family structure is very important,” Roger says. “I want the business to move towards the children’s direction so we are all involved in making decisions.
“It means my role has changed, but it’s still exciting.”