A Northumberland farmer is taking on the cutting edge of retailing following the opening of a new meat cutting and processing plant with the help of Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES).
The plant will enable organic farmer Steve Ramshaw to expand his own business Northumbrian Quality Meats, processing his own range of organic beef and lamb products, and to help fellow farmers keen to take advantage of the growing market for niche meat products.
Sir Don Curry, chairman of the Government's Sustainable Farming and Food Implementation Group and a Northumberland farmer, was invited to conduct the official opening of the new plant at Monkridge Hill Farm, in the Northumberland Hills, on Sunday, (31 July 2005).
Mr Ramshaw explained:
"We have invested in the new plant to allow us to expand our own business and provide a service to other farmers in the area wanting to process their meat to sell direct to consumers.
"We've also added state of the art cookers and will be launching a new range of organic meat products, including pies, pates and smoke meats, under the Northumbrian Quality Meats brand later in the year.
"We've already proved that by processing your own meat and selling direct you can add greater value and ensure a more sustainable and profitable business. We specialise in organic meat, which includes our award-winning Aberdeen Angus organic beef and Scottish blackface lamb as well as a complimentary range of rare-breed organic pork and poultry and have an ever-growing number of customers.
"The growing popularity of Farmers' Markets and direct sales of high quality produce has given farmers more and more opportunities to get involved in offering personalised products and our new plant will enable us to meet that demand and expand further, while also helping other farmers, both organic and conventional, who want to explore this avenue of business and add value to their own primary produce.
"The support we've had from Defra, both financially and in strategic help and advice has been greatly appreciated and we see working alongside Defra in the future as a key part of our business. The changes in farming and subsidies means we have to become more proactively involved in the promotion of our products."
Adrian Vass, an adviser at the Rural Development Service in the North East, which delivers RES on behalf of Defra, said:
"The Rural Enterprise Scheme is designed to help farmers and other rural businesses who wish to diversify and adapt to ensure a sustainable and profitable rural economy.
"Mr Ramshaw has already shown the determination and innovation needed to succeed and is now expanding his business. At the same time, this new processing plant will give other farmers the opportunity to develop their own businesses by concentrating on producing a quality product and working closely with consumers to find new markets for their products.