14 June 2002

Web selling spins a thriving trade for young entrepreneur

By David Green

YOUNG entrepreneur, David Barnard, set up his own direct-sale meat business while still at university and is one of a growing number of farmers who sell through the internet.

Mr Barnard, who only recently celebrated his 23rd birthday, now runs a business with an annual turnover of more than £100,000 and is looking to expand further.

He lives and works at Shropham, near Attleborough, Norfolk, a former barn next to his family home having been converted into a farm shop with the help of a European Farm Diversification grant.

People travel miles to buy meat and other food from the shop and Mr Barnard also delivers his produce all over Norfolk and, via a courier service, to other parts of Britain through the internet.

"I sometimes get requests from people living overseas who want to send some beef to relatives in the UK celebrating a birthday or Christmas," he said.

He is the sole trader and director of the business, which rents much of its grazing land and employs his father, John, a former trading standards official, and two part-timers. Earlier this year he was declared East Anglias young farmer of the year in the regional NFU competition.

"I grew up on a family farm and I have always wanted to be involved in farming. The idea of running my own business and the challenge of farming in these difficult times is one which has really inspired me," Mr Barnard said.

He has 75 Belgian Blue heifers and 70 breeding ewes. Last year he tried woodland-reared pigs, an experiment he would like to repeat.

"We buy-in the calves at about 12 weeks and they are kept to about 16-18 months old. We find the Belgian Blues are best for our purposes. They have a very small bone structure, so you get a high proportion of meat," he said.

His latest plan is to convert a derelict mill building into a 20-seater restaurant which would only use meat reared on the farm.

"I believe this would be popular with people who increasingly want to know where their food has come from," said Mr Barnard. &#42