The North Yorkshire farmer who created his own broadband business because his internet service wasn't good enough

A nursery and a broadband business are among the ventures pursued by one North Yorkshire farmer who has diversified from the traditionally agricultural.

Mark Pybus first converted some buildings on his farm near Catterick into the Crabtree Hall Business Centre in 2007, but fairly quickly found that the internet provision was not sufficient.

Within five years he had set up Crabtree Community Broadband to improve the connectivity for the tenants, “but also as part of that we relayed it out to villages and businesses in the area,” Mr Pybus told the Yorkshire Post.

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The internet business fairly quickly attracted so many customers that it was sold to a larger national provider around three years ago “because it was getting to a point where there were more customers than we could manage really and be technically proficient enough to service them properly”.

Mark Pybus first converted some buildings on his farm near Catterick into the Crabtree Hall Business Centre in 2007, but fairly quickly found that the internet provision was not sufficient.
Mark Pybus first converted some buildings on his farm near Catterick into the Crabtree Hall Business Centre in 2007, but fairly quickly found that the internet provision was not sufficient.

When the financial crash hit soon after the business centre opened in the late noughties, Mr Pybus said he “really struggled for tenants in the early days.”

“Which was why we ended up having the nursery because there was one building that was stubbornly empty and we thought we should fill it with our own business,” he explained.

Mini Explorers Nursery now has space for 82 children and employs 35 people focusing on children spending time outside in all weathers “walking around the farm and learning a bit about the countryside as well.”

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“The internet was again through necessity rather than wanting to become an internet provider” Mr Pybus said, describing their old connection as “very ropey”.

Reflecting on others in the industry and the range of diversified incomes in farming, he said:

“When I think about neighbours in our area there are very few businesses that are solely agricultural, they’ve diversified in some way even if it’s just having a holiday house or bringing a second income into the household.

“Those that have remained solely farming businesses I think have specialised and expanded such as intensive pig rearing or eggs or something like that. I think a traditional mixed farm with just that as the income is few and far between now.”