Farmers Weekly Awards Winner: Local Food Farmer of the Year

How do you achieve £5m worth of revenue in just six years? Douglas Wanstall and his family at Bank Farm, Ashford, Kent have the answer in the form of local food hubs.

They have pioneered a local food business with other producers supplying hospitals, schools, hotels, shops and restaurants with more than 1400 product lines. Their mission is to build the largest and most successful food business in the country by channelling local food from Kent farms to suppliers via one invoice.

Douglas Wanstall is the driving force behind the enterprise. He farms in his own right with arable and vegetable crops, free range poultry, a restaurant and farm shop. But a huge amount of his time is spent driving forward local food distribution by building a sales, marketing and specialist meat team that find and develop new business.

Customers include seven schools, five Asda stores and several well known London hospitals and hotels. Supplying Asda has its challenges with product positioning, pricing, packaging and merchandising. Bank Farm works with up to 100 local producers and Douglas admits he is selective about which farm products he will take on his books.

He is equally choosy about who he supplies, recently refusing business with celebrity chefs Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsey because “their attitudes were all wrong and they were shocking payers. Why should I subsidise them?”

Investing in specialist expertise in sales, finance, meat and fresh produce has been key to his success because it has added value to the whole operation and enabled the hub to grow quicker. The plan is to quadruple revenue from £5m to £20m by 2011.

Douglas impressed the judges with his inspiring ideas and phenomenal energy and drive. He describes himself as “someone with itchy feet all the time” and is constantly looking for new opportunities. Work is already under way to develop a similar local food distribution hub in Hampshire and the longer term vision is to bring together all local food hubs across the country.

It is ambitious and well thought out and, on the basis of his current track record, is certainly achievable.

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