Charting the rise of Rachel and Richard Kay’s countryside business near Boroughbridge

Richard and Rachel Kay pictured at Rabbit Hill Country Store in Arkendale. Pictures by Simon Hulme.
Richard and Rachel Kay pictured at Rabbit Hill Country Store in Arkendale. Pictures by Simon Hulme.
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When your life’s burning ambition was to wash cows down at Otley Bridge End livestock market, you realise given the benefit of hindsight that some things can turn out for the best.

Rachel Kay never achieved that particular longing, but she and husband Richard have achieved far more in the rural world than they perhaps ever imagined when they began working together in 1994 a year after they married.

Rabbit Hill Country Store in Arkendale.

Rabbit Hill Country Store in Arkendale.

Today Rachel has her own cattle that if she chose to could wash them down whenever she likes at their home near Great Ouseburn, but it is the Great North Road near Boroughbridge where you are perhaps more likely to see the couple, at their ever expanding countryside-oriented business which having emanated from supplying chemicals, fertilisers and seeds among many other lines now includes the new Rabbit Hill Country Store on a site that houses their immensely successful Green-Tech business at Rabbit Hill Park, which was once Holly Bank Farm.

“My parents had been dairy and pig farmers in Dunsforth but left farming when I was 14 and moved to Boroughbridge,” says Rachel. “We had about 50 cows and I’d always wanted some of my own. I now have a small herd of 10 Belted Galloways. They’re easy to manage, good to look at and occasionally we have one for the freezer. It’s not a commercial concern.”

Rabbit Hill and Green-Tech are very much the commercial arms and it was Green-Tech that came about initially as a result of Richard’s agricultural background and a partial disaster that turned out to be the catalyst for all that has occurred.

“My dad was an agronomist and had a small pig herd of 30 sows taking progeny through to 12 weeks,” says Richard. “I studied agricultural marketing at Brackenhurst Agricultural College in Nottinghamshire with a view to following my dad into agronomy and started with Robertson Crop Protection in Wetherby.”

It was Richard’s move to a company in Barton-on-Humber selling premier estate products going into receivership just months later that set the couple on their way to today’s fresh new business park that houses their ever expanding team now numbering 80 including a telesales team of 30.

“I bought a little red van from the motor dealership where Rachel was working and started selling chemicals, fertilisers and seeds to the golf, amenity and estates markets and farmers. It stood me in good stead because as anyone knows if you can sell to farmers you should be able to sell to anyone.”

Today, Green-Tech, the company Richard and Rachel formed starting with the van is now the leading supplier of next day delivery brands by either pallet or parcel delivery throughout the UK for its various sectors.

Rabbit Hill Country Store is their new kid on the block. It’s a move into the retail sector from premises that appear to be in an ideal location, just off the A1 and with plenty of parking space.

“It’s something new for us,” says Richard. “We will be driving all our Green-Tech products through it including our own brands such as soils, wildflower seeds, quality animal feeds and bedding. We purchased an established pet food business Regency Feeds and this allows it far greater exposure. We’re looking to serve farmers, the equine market, pet owners, gardeners and basically anyone who needs anything connected with the countryside.

“We also offer a Rabbit Hill Country Store delivery service within a 15-mile radius and if we don’t stock what a customer is looking for we will get it, ship it and deliver it. There’s a café on site too and that’s another draw for those who want to relax while enjoying their shopping experience here.

“Our farmer customers are already coming to us regularly for veterinary medicines as we have a qualified dispensing team and with lambing season in full swing and calving all year round there is a real need for somewhere that they can rely on being open and here for the future with people who understand farming needs.”

Richard believes the opening of Rabbit Hill Country Store has come at a good time.

“The country store market appears to be going through a transitory phase at present. We’re getting people coming through our doors while some of the recognised bigger boys seem to be dumping local stores.

“This looks to us as good a time as any for us to stick with it as those fall by the wayside and if we get it right it may also prove a blueprint for opening satellite country stores elsewhere. We’re certainly aiming to sell to our strengths and our product lines are well worth the look. We’ve always gone for quality including great brands like ICL chemicals and fertilisers and Advanta Seeds.”