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Top businesses to come together for WMN Countryside awards

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 29, 2014

  • Rebecca Tonks (middle) of St Ewe Free Range Eggs, with mother Chris and father Richard. Below: Devon Grain store manager Duncan Lyon and company chairman Jerry Alford

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In the first of a series of articles profiling the businesses and individuals shortlisted for the WMN Countryside Awards, Athwenna Irons looks at the candidates for the title of Farm Business of the Year.

Devon Grain

With farms increasing in both size and combine capacity, arable farmers are on the lookout for economical storage solutions.

This is where Devon Grain comes to the fore. A non-profit making cooperative and owned by Westcountry farmers, the aim is to provide a cheaper storage solution than the equivalent on-farm alternative.

Grain grown from 7,000 to 8,000 acres of Devon’s finest arable land is brought to the store each year, which is run under the watchful eye of store manager Duncan Lyon.

Members can deliver grain straight from the combine in whatever agreed volume for it to be first analysed and then treated to meet the market demand, be it for the long or short term storage.

The store is also the only one in the South West that holds both organic and non organic commodities including wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape and beans.

A recent investment of £700,000 has enabled two more storage silos, complete with infrastructure and conveyors, to be installed on the site at Cullompton, just off the M5.

The addition of the extra silos has added a further 5,000 tonnes of storage capacity to the existing 20,000 tonnes.

Wyke Farms

Based in the heart of the Somerset cheddar-making region, Wyke Farms has grown to become not only the largest independent cheese maker and milk processor in the UK, but an advocate for modern farming.

The business was started by Tom and Ivy Clothier in the village of Wyke Champflower, near Bruton, in the first years of the 20th century.

To this very day, the business hangs on to its cheese-making traditions, using age-old recipes and methods devised in the dairies of Somerset.

Whilst keeping to the basic principles of making top-quality cheddar, the company, which is now run by managing director Rich Clothier, is at the cutting edge of renewable energy generation – with a “100% Green” initiative in place.

Lying a couple of miles away from the factory, three dome-shaped green bio-digesters turn waste from the farm and factory into gas.

The gas is then burned in a generator to create – along with an array of solar panels – all the power the business needs to keep the clogs turning.

In July of this year, the firm officially opened their Water Recovery Plant, a £1.3 million investment which is part of the £10 million long-term sustainability plan. Now fully operational, the water plant enables Wyke Farms to recover up to 95% of the factory’s waste water.

St Ewe Free Range Eggs

At St Ewe Free Range Eggs, it is clear for anyone to see that the chicken comes first in the age-old puzzle – as thousands of hens scratch and sing to their hearts’ content.

Rebecca Tonks has successfully juggled family and working life to front one of Cornwall’s most talked about and up and coming farming businesses.

With a helping hand from her parents Richard and Christine, Rebecca is now taking the business forward at an exciting pace, and together with her dedicated team of employees, flying the flag for quality local produce.

Since 2007, the egg-packing centre, quietly tucked away at Ventonwyn Farm, just outside the Cornish village of St Ewe, has grown to supply four of the largest supermarkets, Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, alongside a number of South West wholesalers.

Their ranges, which include “Hen Picked”, aimed at the younger market, and “Boost the Roost” selenium-enriched, have been lovingly crafted by hand from start to finish, as Rebecca designs the egg boxes’ labelling and colour schemes herself.

The family-run business has already been recognised at a number of awards ceremonies. Rebecca was a double winner at this year’s Cornwall Farm Business Awards, scooping the Cornwall Farmer of the Year and Best Woman in Farming awards.

The business has also been hugely successful at the 2014 Taste of the West Awards, receiving a gold for their “Boost the Roost” range, and four silvers for their six and twelve pack medium and large eggs.

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