Farms forsaken by a man with a

20 August 1999




Such feelings have prompted Terry to volunteer for another Convoy leaving on Sept 7. Hopefully, there will be the same reaction as to the first appeal, when donations came from individuals, schools and organisations. "The response was overwhelming."

It was strange coming home. And even now, back in the daily routine of tending his prize-winning Sussex cattle herd and running the garden centre at East Peckham, thoughts of the Balkans are never far from his mind. "I cant work properly yet. I still feel as if I cant get into it.

"I did a lot of recording but cant play any of it back; I cant even read my notes.

"I will never, ever forget this trip and when I read newspapers and see TV reports my memories keep flooding back. When you look at those faces, you can see the sadness there."

&#8226 Anyone wishing to make donations can contact Terry on 01622 871250.

Old barn became base of

frozen seafood success…

FINDING new ways to generate income on a farm gets harder every year.

It is not a new problem and almost 10 years ago it exercised the minds of Tim and Tessa Holland when their son returned home from agricultural college.

"The western tip of south- west Wales was not the ideal place to start a new business," says Tim who farms dairy and corn, and is in the process of converting to organic. "Our only asset was a redundant barn."

So what to do? Drawing inspiration from the sea – their farm looks out over the Bristol Channel to Exmoor – and recognising the increase in eating out, they decided to supply the catering trade by distributing frozen seafood. They sought out suppliers, installed a cold store in the barn, hired a refrigerated van and began to seek out customers.

&#42 Growing outlets

Pembroke Sea, as they named their company, grew well over the next seven years until it had available outlets such as pubs, hotels, restaurants and sandwich bars in the area pretty much covered. Game, fruit and gourmet foods were added to the range of foods they supplied.

Expansion meant going farther afield, but the success of the business was very much bound up with establishing a personal rapport with customers. Tim decided to look for other people to train to run Pembroke Sea in their own areas. An ex-agricultural contractor in the Cotswolds was the first recruit to what was to become a buyers group, rather than a franchise. He has now been in business for three years and averages a weekly turnover of £4000. Three more members have been recruited and Tim feels there is room for more.

"People in agriculture are particularly suitable, as they are used to running their own businesses and coping with officials, public health, weights and measures and planners. Not to mention the dreaded VAT and the uncertainties of cash flow," says Tim. "With training and good back-up they soon know their crevettes from their cephalopods. The hours are reasonable and it is a sociable job but it does demand attention to detail. There is nothing quite so angry as a chef expecting smoked salmon for a banquet, being presented with salmon steaks."

&#42 Full-time job

He stresses that it will be pretty much a full time job but that it is handy to have some other form of income while you build up a customer base. It could suit members of the family stepping back from farming, or wanting to set up their own business from the farm base, or those who want a major change in direction.

Inquiries: 01994-453256

Mix a redundant barn with a

freezer and seafood and you

could have the recipe for a

successful business.

Tessa Gates reports

Apple industry comes to crunch

AS it is in other sectors of farming, so it is in fruit. Growers, gathered in London last week for the launch of the top fruit season, are predicting another tough season, as import pressure from the strong £ takes its toll.

"Very glum," is how Paul Dunsby from Broadway, Worcs, describes the mood. "There will be a lot of growers who will go bust this year. Costs are going up so fast. If the end product doesnt go up with it, theyll be in big trouble."

But apple quality is good this year, he says. "Weve had wet spells and hot spells – a typical English summer. Its not like the Continental one where apples are baked in the hot sun then watered to death with irrigation."

Alan Wickham from Goudhurst, Kent, agrees its been a good growing season. "I have a brilliant crop of Gala. The biggest problem is going to be getting enough money for it."

Prices, he says, were 40p/lb four years ago; 37p three years ago; 34p two years ago; and, last year, marginally over 30p. "Theyre going the wrong way. I hope it will stabilise – if not well be in real trouble."

James Nichols, chairman of English Apples and Pears, is calling on supermarkets to give growers a better price deal. "Give us your support," he said. "And not just with the orders and the shelf space. We had both of those last year and still didnt make a profit."

&#8226 Apples are believed to be the first fruit cultivated by man.

&#8226 The countrys first orchard is thought to have been founded at Teynham, Kent, in the 16th century.

&#8226 The oldest English cooking apple is the Costard. It is no longer available to customers but it is from this variety that the word costermonger comes – meaning someone who sells fruit and veg from a barrow in the street.

&#8226 The Warden pear is mentioned in Shakespeares The Winters Tale.

&#8226 The pear variety Conference was introduced to England in 1885.

Source: English Apples and Pears.

&#8226 They contain almost no fat.

&#8226 They offer a good supply of dietary fibre and vitamins.

&#8226 They contain malic acid – an aid to digestion.

&#8226 They contain boron, a mineral thought to help the body retain calcium and prevent osteoporosis.

&#8226 They can help reduce blood cholesterol, according to medical studies.

&#8226 They are beneficial to dental hygiene.

Farms forsaken by a man with a

talent for selling

sdraftsgydhuqik

JAMES Stanton joined Pembroke Sea two years ago, which was a means of getting back to his rural roots without farming again.

James studied agriculture at Cirencester, but when, in 1986, he returned to farm the 93.15ha (230 acres) that had been in his family for years, he freely admits that he "made a pigs ear of it".

"I got a bit radical with the crops," he says. The farmland is now let on business tenancies and James discovered his forte was as a salesman. After travelling extensively abroad selling medical equipment, he returned home to the farmhouse at Headlow Fields Farm, Snelston, near Ashbourne, Derbys, where he still had the use of outbuildings.

"You need to be outgoing and confident for this job. Sometimes when you walk into a pub everything goes quiet – if you find that dreadful then this is not good for you," says James.

"To anyone just setting up I would say do not get a walk-in freezer to start with, get a series of chest freezers. I got my walk-in cheap, but it is not cheerful. They cost about £10,000 new, about £2500 second-hand. Finding a good one is the problem. I would say make sure the guy you buy it from is responsible for installation and service or leave it alone.

&#42 Customer reaction

"For me it has been quite easy to get customers, you have to like banging on doors. Most people are super, very nice, but others just do not like salesmen."

He has about 60 outlets on his books and delivers round the A38 corridor and the Peak District. A refrigerated van is an absolute necessity for this. "I could do with something bigger now, you cant skimp on the van." His main customers are independent pubs. The products and the service are very individual. "Yes, they can get prawns and calamari from me, but also frogs legs and snails," says James. In fact, he sells all manner of seafood, frozen and pickled, smoked, cured and spiced meats, patés, dressings and pickles.

"On £5000 stock you can make 25-30% gross profit. For less than 20% it would not be worth getting out of bed," he says. His turnover is £3000 a week, but he reckons to need to increase it by another £1000 a week. "Then I can start taking some money out of the business."

&#42 Price benefits

Buying through Pembroke Sea brings the benefit of well negotiated prices, but he is not obliged to buy all his stock from the group. "I go to Birming-ham fish market twice a week to buy fresh fish. I sell this at a low profit margin to encourage customers to buy other things," he says.

James feels the enterprise would be good for a second or third son living on the farm who needs to do his own thing or for a couple, with one handling the phone and bookwork and the other making the sales and deliveries. "But it is a full time job and not one you can stop in August to help out with the harvest," he warns.

"All the Pembroke Sea enterprises are similar but each is a wee bit different. You can put your own stamp on it," says James. The business suits him.

"I do not farm at all now, but I know how to balance a good customer crop," he says.

Inquiries: 01335-347288

A TIME of flared trousers, pipes and sideburns. Silver jubilee year.

"Never has there been a year when dandelions have grown larger or more abundantly," Farmlife reported. "The humble dandelion is coming back into its own as a herb and wine plant in these inflationary times."

Inflation was evident in land prices, which hit new highs. A MAFF survey showed vacant possession ground topping £2000/ha. Buyers were out in force – among them the cigarette makers Gallahers pension fund which snapped up more than £5m worth of Lincs land in 16 days. It was still cheap compared with land in Europe, a spokesman for the firm said.

The debate about metrification rumbled on. One farmers weekly reader even felt inspired to verse, writing: "They can keep the metre, stuff the gram, I shall stay as I am."

Farmers were facing tough times at home. "The outlook for pigs is bleak," declared the NFU. And cattle prices slumped, with imports of Irish beef blamed. It was better for store lamb sellers, though, with record prices seen. At one Welsh auction Blackface crossbred stores averaged £20.50.

Anyone very disillusioned with farming in this country could have applied for job vacancies in the agriculture faculty at the University of Tripoli, Libya, advertised in the Appointments section.

The NFU, meanwhile, was calling on holiday makers in the north-west to avoid creating traffic jams in the countryside at peak harvest periods.

Traffic jams? Shame the NFU couldnt do anything about the jams in Cornwall after the eclipse last week.


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