Robert Newborough
Rhug Organic Farm, Corwen, Denbighshire

North Wales estate owner and farmer Robert Newborough has been named as the 2013 Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year.

Robert has transformed a conventional farm business at Rhug Estate, Corwen into one of the biggest and most successful organic farming businesses in the UK.

The business has grown by pursuing an ambitious diversification strategy, which has been based on cutting out the middleman and selling directly to consumers.

Farm facts
  • 1,457ha organic farming enterprise in north Wales
  • Converted to organic in 1998; now fully certified by the Soil Association
  • Aberdeen Angus, salt marsh lamb, bison, chicken and turkey
  • All livestock bred and finished on farm with feed grown on the farm and sent to a local family-run abattoir
Winning ways
  • Tripled farm area and increased revenues tenfold in 15 years
  • Selling direct to premium outlets from fine restaurants to local markets
  • Sought international answers to recession-hit Britain
  • Championing green energy schemes
  • Inspiring leader for the industry and his 85-man team

Robert, who was also named Diversification Farmer of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony in London on Thursday night (3 October), has created an impressive business with a turnover of £5.5m and employing 85 people.

Farmers Weekly editor Jane King said the judges had been impressed by his determination to seek out alternative business opportunities and open up new markets.

Robert inherited the estate, as well as the title Lord Newborough, following the death of his father in 1998.

Since then the organic farming enterprise has increased from 1,011ha (2,500 acres) to 3,035ha (6,700 acres) across three estates – and it continues to grow.

He has created a bespoke “Rhug Organic” brand and sells produce direct to delis, baby food companies, airlines, trains, as well as top restaurants and hotels in London and the Far East.

Rhug’s meats have also scooped prestigious awards for their flavour and taste and they can be found on the tables at fine restaurants, including Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons at Oxford.

A busy UK mail order service, and a stall at the Borough Market in London, which sell meat straight from the farm, have added value to the business and helped to promote Rhug products.

In 2011, the business developed further when Robert decided to invest in a new farm shop, bistro and take away on the farm site.

Rhug has a dedicated cutting plant and a team of nine butchers. Meat orders are taken daily, then prepared, packed and dispatched on the same day.

Although Rhug is undoubtedly bigger than most farm estates, its mantra to ensure that every asset – either big or small – is “sweated” could be used to create a successful business model for any farm size.

The whole business is based on sustainability and making use of every resource.

Redundant farm buildings that are used for lambing in the winter are used for caravan storage and inside events in the summer.

The estate also hosts a monthly farmers’ market, cross-country running and riding events, car boot sales, game shoots and fishing.

Robert is also serious about renewable energy and the diversification into alternative energy is based on maximizing the use of natural assets on the farm and making the business less reliant on farming income.

 

The full list of winners from the 2013 Farmers Weekly Awards are:

  • Farmer of the Year: Robert Newborough
  • Arable Farmer of the Year: Jeremy Oatey
  • Beef Farmer of the Year: Phil Jones
  • Contractor of the Year: Philip Clappison
  • Countryside Farmer of the Year: Eurwyn Edwards
  • Dairy Farmer of the Year: Hugh McClymont
  • Diversification Farmer of the Year: Robert Newborough
  • Farm Adviser of the Year: Keith Norman
  • Farm Manager of the Year: Richard Price
  • Farmworker of the Year: Dominic Hutter
  • Green Energy Farmer of the Year: John Seed
  • Local Food Farmer of the Year: Colin McKee
  • Pig Farmer of the Year: Ian Davidson
  • Poultry Farmer of the Year: Stephen and Richard Tulip
  • Sheep Farmer of the Year: Keith Williams
  • Young Farmer of the Year: Jonathan Skinner
  • Farming Champion: Andrew Ward

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