2013-10-30   facebooktwitterrss
Cumbrian Couple set for Taste of Success on the Farm

A local couple is hoping for a taste of success following the opening of a brand new farm shop and cafe.

John and Sylvia Welbank risked it all a year ago when they bought Ireby Green Farm at Cowan Bridge near Kirkby Lonsdale - a run-down farm house with a yard full of dilapidated buildings, a small caravan park and 75 acres of land.

left to right: new team members of the National Centre for the Uplands Dr Joanne Beukers-Stewart; Alastair Philip, Liz Philip, Mervyn Lewis, Dr Andrew Henworth, and Dr Deirdre Rooney at Askham Bryan College

Sylvia and John Welbank

Although significantly out of their price range, the entrepreneurial couple saw the potential of the farm and managed to borrow enough capital to make their dream a reality.

Moving in during November last year, their first priority was to get the farm buildings in working order so they could take delivery of 80 head of cattle, which would generate crucial income for the fledgling business.

Next, they turned their attention to the house itself, which required a huge amount of renovation and modernisation including re-wiring, a new central heating system and internal repair work.

The final piece of the jigsaw was to develop a new café and farm shop, which according to John proved to be the most stressful part of the venture. He said:
“We were incredibly lucky to get a £50,000 grant from Defra as we simply couldn’t afford the development from our own resources - but the offer was dependent on planning.”

With a background in rural business consultancy and as the Vice Chairman of the local branch of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), John felt he well positioned to handle the planning application but was still shocked at the amount of red tape he was forced to wade through.

He said: “Our local planning authority’s target for decisions was eight weeks but sadly, what should have been a two month process, turned into a seven month battle and it wasn’t until February of this year that planning was finally granted.”

Eventually opening last month, the café and farm shop have proved to be an instant hit, with Sylvia at the helm, focusing very much on local produce.

She said: “We offer really high quality home cooking and baking with a modern twist and intentionally restrict the menu to concentrate on daily specials based around local, seasonal produce.”

CLA North Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn said: “John and Sylvia’s experiences really illustrate the challenges of modern day farming and how diversification projects are an increasingly integral part of the business structure.

“CLA lobbying has helped to significantly alter national planning policy in favour of rural businesses like John and Sylvia’s but there is still clearly work to be done to ensure that this gets filtered down to a local level.”


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