Suffolk dairy crowned UK’s best rural manufacturing business in national awards scheme – the Rural Business Awards

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A Suffolk family farm business whose cheese fed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding day, and a food business consultancy from the county, are officially two of the country’s top rural firms after coming away with honours at the national finals of the UK-wide Amazon-backed Rural Business Awards. Fen Farm Dairy Limited from Bungay was handed the top prize for Best Rural Manufacturing Business at a glittering ceremony held at Chateau Impney in Worcestershire on February 28, while food business specialists Appetite Me, from near Bury St Edmunds, came runner-up in the same national final for Best Rural Professional Services Business. Both businesses had won their categories in the regional heats of the awards scheme which were held in the autumn of 2018.

“The Rural Business Awards shines a much-deserved spotlight on the innovators, creators and inventors in rural communities across the UK and it’s great to celebrate their successes at this year’s national final,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “I’d like to congratulate Fen Farm Dairy Ltd, Appetite Me and all the other winners and finalists at this year’s event and wish them continued success for the future.”

Fen Farm Dairy Limited – UK Winner, Best Rural Manufacturing Business

Fen Farm Dairy is run by the Crickmore family, third generation farmers who several years ago diversified into making cheese and butter from raw milk, as well as selling it at the farm gate. The farm’s herd of happy Montbeliarde and Friesian cows graze the beautiful marshlands of the Waveney River Valley in Suffolk and their delicious raw milk is carefully made into the finest cheese and raw cultured butter. The dairy aims for lower yielding cows with better quality milk and the herd is grazed for as many months as possible.

The UK representatives for DF Italia milk vending machines – a system which enables raw milk to be sold to customers at the farm gate – the Crickmore family have installed a 50kw solar panel system, that enables the whole farm to be powered by solar energy on sunny days. They also harness the natural heat from fresh, warm cows’ milk as it goes through the cooling system to help heat the water used for washing down the milk parlour.

Fen Farm Dairy is currently working alongside the government’s Food Standards Agency and the NFU (National Farmers’ Union) to set up a Raw Milk Producers Group. Their own products, Baron Bigod cheese and Bungay Raw Butter, have found their way into many prestigious places over the past few years, including the Royal breakfast of Prince Harry on his wedding day to Meghan Markle, the dinner table of the Beckhams, Royal Ascot, Wimbledon, Silverstone, The Autumn Rugby Internationals and the BA First Class menu. The farm also works closely with Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, which sells its Baron Bigod cheese rather than importing French Brie.

Fen Farm Dairy Managing Director, Graham Crickmore, said:

“We are delighted to have won the National Rural Business Award for the Best Rural Manufacturing Business. As the only raw milk brie-style cheese producer in the UK, we are immensely proud of our products, and are so glad that the judges recognised our dedication, innovation, and commitment to the environment through this award. The Rural Business Awards are an important celebration of the rural sector, and we have truly enjoyed being a part of them.”

Appetite Me – UK Runner-Up, Best Rural Professional Services Business

Appetite Me are specialists in the rural set up of farm shops and restaurants. They cover anything to complete a rural set up from in depth feasibility studies, grant applications, designing farm shops and restaurants, for both front and back of house. They source the staff, food and drink ranging, merchandising, buying, branding and websites. Once the operation is launched, they usually manage the business on behalf of the client ensuring standards and profit are maintained. They also have a buying team dedicated to artisan food and drink, working with more than 600 small producers in over 35 English counties, and purchasing more than £3million in artisan products for its clients’ farm shops and restaurants.

Appetite Me Managing Director, Rob Tate, commented:

“We are delighted to have been declared the runner up the Best Rural Professional Services Business category at the Rural Business Awards. Appetite Me support over 650 small rural artisan food and drink businesses throughout the UK, and are the only British consultancy offering a full rural farm shop and hospitality service. We are proud of the work we do, and are thrilled to receive this recognition from the Rural Business Awards. Awards programmes like this are crucial in highlighting the work being done by rural enterprises.”

Now in their fourth year, the Rural Business Awards is the only UK-wide programme dedicated to showcasing the success of rural business. The scheme was set up by Leicestershire businesswomen Jemma Clifford and Anna Price to provide a spotlight for entrepreneurial talent in rural areas of Britain, a sector of the economy they felt was often overlooked in similar prize schemes by large, city-based firms.

Government figures show that rural firms are in fact punching above their weight when it comes to their contribution to the UK economy. Around 17 per cent of the population in much of the UK (England and Scotland) lives in rural areas[1], yet rural enterprise across the country contributes £229billion to the country’s GVA (gross value added) – about a fifth of the country’s economic activity.[2] That’s despite significant and acknowledged disadvantages for rural business operators, such as poor transport, difficulty in accessing skills and training and the ever present issues around both mobile and broadband connectivity. These difficulties make it extra hard for many rural firms to compete with urban businesses in areas such as fast stock turnarounds and recruitment of talent.

Awards co-founder Anna Price said: “My colleague Jemma and I are overwhelmed by the success of our Rural Business Awards, which have done so much to champion countryside-based firms across Britain. Huge congratulations to Fen Farm Dairy and Appetite Me for their success in our national awards. Both of them have come through tough regional heats so to win a top prize or runner-up spot in our national awards is an achievement indeed.

“Our commitment to the rural agenda, and the success of the Rural Business Awards, has led to us establish the Rural Business Group, a not for profit, Community Interest Company (CIC), which was officially launched at the Rural Business Awards National Final. This independent organisation will enable the rural business community to find the support, inspiration and guidance that they need to grow and thrive.

“We have already held a rural roundtable at 10 Downing Street where we were able to invite a range of rural businesses to share their experiences, and hopes for the future. Such was the success of the first event we have been invited to return to Downing Street in 2019 and this is just one of many initiatives, events and programmes that we have planned for the coming year to both support and showcase the very best of the UK’s rural business sector.

“If rural firms are already punching above their weight in their contribution to the UK economy, who knows what we can achieve if we work together to create a level playing field to enable rural businesses to compete on equal terms?”

The Rural Business Awards are organised by rural business for rural business, with winners in the 13 categories - ranging from Best Rural Start-up and Outstanding Rural Diversification Project through to Best Rural Professional Services Business and Rural Education or Training Business - decided by an independent panel of judges drawn from the rural business sector, rural public sector agencies, and rural charitable organisations. New for 2018/19, there was also a winner of The Founders’ Award. Unlike the other thirteen categories, this award is not influenced by the judges’ scores; instead, it is the founders of the Rural Business Awards, Jemma Clifford and Anna Price, who selected the recipient: Adventure Parc Snowdonia.

The Rural Business Awards are run in partnership with Amazon and are nationally sponsored by Openreach and Fisher German. The Rural Business Awards are also pleased to work with national associates such as the Federation of Small Businesses, the Farm Business Innovation Show, Harper Adams University, the Institute for Family Business and WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise).

The 2019/20 Rural Business Awards are already open for entries so, to enter or find out more about the Awards, visit www.ruralbusinessawards.co.uk

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