Farm of the Week: Cutting out middle man reaps rewards

Paul Bradbury and Jonathan Cooper by the pig enclosuers
Paul Bradbury and Jonathan Cooper by the pig enclosuers
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Two experienced pig farmers are finding success across the region after deciding to go it alone. Agricultural Correspondent Mark Casci reports.

WHEN you reach a certain point on the A64 as you drive towards Scarborough you know you are in pig farming country.

Huge fields of outdoor bred herds line the roadside, reflecting the proud agricultural heritage of the area.

Alongside the road you will also notice these days a small but perfectly formed farm shop, owned and operated by friends Paul Bradbury and Jonathan Cooper.

The pair had originally set up in 1998 doing what Mr Cooper calls “the classic commercial production”, selling to local processors.

However, when prices began to decline at an alarming rate Mr Cooper and Mr Bradbury decided they would need to take action if they were going to survive in farming. The decision to start Trotters Farm Shop was taken.

The pair made the move three years ago when, as Mr Bradbury puts it, “we needed to make it pay”.

“We wanted to just deal with the customer and start cutting out the middle man,” he said.

Mr Cooper adds: “We have gone from a situation where people told us ‘this is the price, take it or leave it’ to having much more control.”

Both men built up the businesses by themselves with no grant assistance.

All of the pigs are based on the pair’s Gladvic Farm at Potter Brompton, home to some 85 breeding sows with a pool of butchers also being sold to in the local area.

What particularly distinguishes their enterprise however is the fact that it has won 10 Gold Awards from Bpex for their products and that they routinely have 10-15 varieties of sausages on offer at any time.

“Everything is done here,” said Mr Bradbury. “The animals get sent for slaughter locally and are brought back here as a carcass.

“We get really good feedback from the customers. If they get something they like they will tell us if its good – it’s far more rewarding than dealing with the supermarket where you just get no feedback at all.

“The customer base is building up all the time now.”

The pair effectively split the work in two, with Mr Bradbury mainly focused on the shop side of things while Mr Cooper attends to the farm.

Elsewhere, Mr Cooper’s wife works part-time with the business and a full-time butcher is employed on the site to prepare the meats for sale.

What perhaps distinguishes the shop is that it is home to a plethora of Yorkshire’s finest produce, with a variety of meats, vegetables and delicacies from the White Rose County on sale there.

As well as acting as an outlet for the produce of Gladvic Farm, the business is also selling quality products from other farms in the Potter Bromptom area, with beef and lamb being sold through the shop from neighbouring farms.

“They are of great quality and locally sourced,” said Mr Bradbury. “They are all from Yorkshire, very little is from more than 30 miles away to be honest.”

The pair have started to grow their own produce too on the farm and for sale in the shop, with carrots, sweetcorn and potatoes now being grown.

The pigs themselves however remain the main focus of the farm.

“They are all free range,” said Mr Cooper.

“We do buy into the herd occasionally but not very often.

“We have around two litters a year. We do not wean them until they are six weeks old which means we don’t have as many litters.”

The location of the business just off the A64 has meant that the shop enjoys a lot of passing trade and Trotters has begun to attract a decent customer base from around the region.

“We have got a fairly big regular customer base, from all around Yorkshire. We do get a lot of passing trade but also have seen a pick-up in business from holiday makers during the season. We get some really good repeat business in these areas,” Mr Bradbury said.

To augment the business the farmers have also developed a successful niche line in supplying the local catering trade and guest houses, with their wares providing the basis of Yorkshire farmhouse breakfasts across the area. In addition, the business offers the ever popular option of a hog roast to customers, something particularly in demand for weddings and large gatherings.

To get the word out to as wide a sphere of contacts as possible the shop is part of the deliciouslyorkshire scheme, something Mr Bradbury said has been of great use.

“We have been a member for around two years,” he said.

“We were at a food festival in Wakefield a few days ago and that was really good – we will be at a few of them this year. They seem to be good for promoting the business.”

The success that Mr Cooper and Mr Bradbury have enjoyed since going it alone stands in stark contrast to the trials they endured prior to setting up the shop.

Mr Cooper remembers the day when the owner of a farm they worked on announced one day that he was selling up.

They bought 600 of the sows and some of the equipment and carried on from there but today their contact with the customer is much more personal and hands-on, putting an end to the days of dealing with vast corporate machines.

Mr Cooper said: “It is good to get the feedback and to build up the relationship with the customer.

“You do build a bond with them. You know it’s going well when they come back for more.”

By the looks of things, more and more people who walk through the doors of Trotters will be doing so for some time to come.