2010 FW Awards: Local Food Farmer of the Year finalist – Andrew Davies

An experienced pig farmer has successfully scaled up his business after creating a producer group of 14 regional farmers, who supply meat for his own quality brand.

Andrew Davies established Woburn Country Foods in 2002, initially to sell meat to the retail and catering trade produced on the family farm.

Andrew, managing director of Woburn, has given up direct farming himself and sold his pigs to concentrate instead on supplying large volumes of quality local meat and developing the Woburn brand.

Along with 14 Bedfordshire farmers, who supply Woburn with the finest meat, he has created a customer base of over 100 catering outlets.

Customers range from pubs and restaurants, to hotels and conference centres, delicatessens, schools, supermarkets and hospitals.

Woburn now supplies 10 local Waitrose stores with sausages and bacon, eight local schools and over 40 local eating establishments.

Woburn also supplies farmers’ markets in Bedfordshire and in London, and sells produce at attractions and shows, most notably the East of England Show, Woburn Safari Park, Whipsnade Zoo and London Zoo.

Andrew says his main aim is to increase the volume of food he produces while maintaining the quality of his produce. “If we’re serious about local food, we’ve got to get the volumes right,” he says.

“Restaurants must have a continuity of supply. If they like our meat, they don’t want supplies to suddenly run out. This is the biggest thing that drives us on.

“Although we have stopped rearing pigs on the farm, our food will be as local as we can get it.

“We’ve got enough producers now so, hopefully, we shall never run out of supply – it’s a question of being able to move the food now and sell it.”

Meat was originally sold in a small rented plant on a neighbouring farm, but the business grew and there was a pressing need to move to bigger premises.

To meet his ambition to expand the business, in 2007 Andrew started a £750,000 project to convert a 1000t grain store into a meat cutting plant and farm shop.

A grant from the East of England Development Agency covered 40% of the project costs and the company paid the remainder. The new plant was opened in December 2008.

It has provided space for the business to grow and the integral farm shop is an outlet for local produce.

Around the same time, Woburn Country Foods Producer Group, which includes Bedfordshire farmer members, was formed to supply the retail and catering trade with quality local meats.

The group produces more than 20,000 pigs, 25,000 lambs, 3000 head of cattle, 10,000 turkeys and 10,000 chickens a year.

In November 2008, Woburn opened a butchery counter half a mile away at Frosts Food Hall, Frosts Garden Centre, Woburn Sands, to sell the same local meats.

Nowadays, Woburn has 15 staff, including two part-time meat packers. All the meat is delivered and processed on the farm.

Woburn uses a local abbatoir, Evans and Sons, farmers from nearby Marston Moreteyne. They supply about 15 pigs, 10 lambs and two bodies of beef a week, including the meat for the “cut and pack” range, quality cuts of packaged meats branded with the Woburn name.

With the help of his daughter Helen, a director and a hardworking team, annual sales for the 2009/10 financial year were £1.4m – a 20% year-on-year increase.

Andrew intends to boost his number of suppliers and expand his catering trade business, increase “cut and pack” sales, and achieve an annual turnover of £5m.

Farm Facts
• 325ha (800 acres) owned, 160ha (400 acres) contract farmed
• The Davieses have been livestock farmers for 80 years
• Farm shop opened in 2007

What the judges liked
• Highly efficient and professional family-run business
• Developed grain store into meat cutting plant and integrated farm shop
• Supports other local farms through Bedfordshire producer group
• Supplies food to local schools, supermarkets and hospitals

• For more on the 2010 Farmers Weekly Awards
• For more on the 2010 finalists