Help for farmers to expand
Farmers Joe and Sheila Coia can now cut and pack their own lamb and pedigree Aberdeen Angus beef on site at Oxenpark Farm, Stratton, near Bude, thanks to support from the Objective One funded Rural Diversification Capital Grant Initiative (RDCGI).
The support has enabled the couple to expand their facilities to include a meat cutting area, packing room and cold room storage.
Not wanting to send the carcases to a large cutting plant, as traceability and security of the meat are vital to them, they decided to bring the butchery in-house. The pre-investment support offered under RDCGI, delivered by John Usher on behalf of Business Link for Devon and Cornwall, allowed them to assess the proposed development and its potential benefit to the overall business.
The business plan showed that there would be benefit to the overall business and an application was made for grant support towards the capital costs of the venture. The appraisal panel of RDCGI agreed a grant of approximately £5000 towards the overall costs.
“We could not have gone ahead without this help,” said Sheila. “We now have total control over butchery and hanging times which helps us to produce a premium quality product for which our customers are prepared to pay a higher price.
“We like to hang hind quarters of beef for up to four weeks as it provides a better product. The new facility also means that we have meat at the farm at all times so we can service the needs of local people as well as the holiday cottages on the farm.”
Rural Diversification Capital Grant Initiative manager Marilyn Pryor, of Business Link, said: “This small but very effective project has helped the farm to expand its operations and make them more viable.
“The Coias found that their farm could not provide them with a living unless they sold directly to the public and they are to be congratulated on their initiative and hard work in expanding into new areas.”
The couple were both Whitehall civil servants when seven years ago they left London and bought the 70-acre Oxenpark Farm and two cows. “It was a complete lifestyle change. We knew nothing about farming and neither did anyone in our families or background – we were very green,” said Sheila.
“Looking back, it was completely the wrong time to buy because within six months the farming industry was hit by BSE.”
They started selling direct to the public four years ago when realising they could not make a living from 70 non-intensively farmed acres.
Sheila now sells her produce at farmers’ and pannier markets at Barnstaple and South Molton as well as events like the Devon County and Royal Cornwall Shows. Orders by mail are delivered in white polystyrene boxes by overnight courier with next morning delivery guaranteed. She has also expanded into producing eight or nine different organic breads from Westcountry organic flour.
Looking to the future, she plans to produce sausages and burgers – and to sell on the internet.
If you are interested in diversifying your farm business, please contact Business Link for Devon and Cornwall on 0845 600 9966.
The new Business Link service for Devon and Cornwall is designed to provide the best possible help to people starting, running or growing a business. At its core is an information and enquiry centre, supported by a network of specialist advisers and linked to local business support organisations as well as the National Business Link Contact Centre. Business Link receives European funding to help it deliver its services in Devon and Cornwall. For more information contact 0845 600 9966.
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