The free range pig farmer who founded Anna's Happy Trotters

Anna’s Happy Trotters has become one of Yorkshire farming’s best branded businesses in recent years

The name Anna's Happy Trotters was thought up by local schoolchildren

Following in the footsteps of her parents Richard and Diana, running her own free-range outdoor pig operations. These are now at three locations with contract farmers.

“My favourite place to be is with my pigs,” says Anna. “But that’s not how you grow a business and in the interests of pig health and security, plus the business itself, it is more advisable to not have all your pigs in one basket, so that’s why I now have farmers who look after them for me and they do a great job. I’ll visit each of the three farms each week and I will help with such as vaccinations when they arrive at four weeks old from one of the two breeding units run by my brother Jon.

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“It was Jon’s idea that we should have separate sites in different batches and this new set-up has improved pig health and reduced massively our use of antibiotics. Batches of 600 all-female pigs arrive every three weeks, which I purchase as weaners from Jon. I take them through to around 85-90 kilos deadweight.”

While Jon has responsibility for the 1,800-acre family farm based at Kilpin, built up by his and Anna’s parents that includes arable cropping and pig breeding units at home and further afield, Anna has built up her enterprise since 2008 having initially started marketing through farmers’ markets and local butchers’ shops.

The name Anna’s Happy Trotters came about through what Anna describes as the “superior imagination” of kids.

“There was a competition run at Howden Junior School where we asked for ideas. I’m useless at that kind of thing. My best effort would have been ‘Posh Pork’. Someone came up with Anna’s Happy Trotters and it summed up what we wanted.

“It still brings a smile to my face now, especially when I get the opportunity to spend time with my pigs, seeing them rooting around in the fields perfectly happy with themselves pulling out stubble.

“Attending farmers’ markets and food festivals helped build the brand and got the name out there, but it became quickly apparent to me that I could end up a busy fool.”

Anna was clearly aware of working smarter rather than perhaps harder, although it has to be said she works as hard as ever, as well as endeavouring to keep away from that possible tag.

“I knew early on I didn’t just want to sell sausages and certain cuts of meat. I wanted to offer everything from a full carcase to every cut possible. I wanted everything to be about Anna’s Happy Trotters from a whole pig going to a butcher to pulled pork, chops, sausages, gammon, the lot. Pigs are known for their no-waste, as everything from them can be eaten.”

Anna got a government grant to build her own butchery at Kilpin and is now in the process of looking at creating an extension, such has been the demand.

“Even before the coronavirus pandemic, and all of the panic that has caused we were looking at increasing our capacity, but the past month since lockdown we have increased the number of pigs we are finishing by 25 per cent. We were on with 160 pigs a week just a month ago. Now we’re at 200.”

In common with every other food producer, Anna has seen her catering trade disappear, including supplying her own new café, Anna’s Happy Kitchen, that opened in Howden just less than two years ago, but what she has lost in that sector has been more than made up for in terms of online sales, farm shop and local butcher sales, where she reports phenomenal demand.

“Our online sales direct from Anna’s Happy Trotters are up 500 per cent and our sales through online butchers Farmison based in Ripon, with whom we have a fabulous relationship, have quadrupled. Bert’s Barrow Farm Shop, who we have supplied since they started, used to take 16 six-packs of sausages every week. They are now ordering 600 packs a week. I am in awe of what Charlotte and Jason have achieved and they are fully deserving of the many awards that have come their way. We are seeing similar demand from the local butchers and all of our other farm shops.”

For the past four weeks Anna has been delivering throughout Yorkshire ensuring supplies arrive on time. The online sales further afield are dealt with through Parcel Force deliveries.

“Sending perishable produce via a postal delivery service provides a huge challenge. Parcel Force have performed really well for us, especially in the past weeks when their logistics have been severely tested. They are doing a superb job.”

Anna leaves nothing to chance and believes in the personal touch when it comes to local deliveries.

“I’m out on the road most days looking after customers from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s award-winning Fodder in Harrogate to Scarborough and up to Roots Farm Shop in East Rounton. We have built up fabulous relationships with many farm shops who are all concerned as we are with animal welfare.

“That’s where our Red Tractor Assured and Freedom Foods accreditations make a difference with buyers who want to know they are buying local Yorkshire produce. We also won a Good Pig Award from the organisation Compassion in World Farming.”

Anna’s Happy Trotters is now on its way to becoming a worldwide brand with a contract to supply 40 pigs a week to Dubai.

“It was one of those calls that just came from out of the blue. I had a visit from the buyer, who came to look around the farm. We are boning whole pigs and sending them out. It’s unbelievable how far we’ve come.”

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