NFU Food Business team visit the South West

A photo of the NFU Food Business Unit meeting with James Winslade who farms at West Yeo Farm on the Somerset Levels.

In early May the NFU’s Food Business team took a trip down south to meet NFU colleagues in the South West of England and visit the diverse range of farms the region has to offer. 

Over the course of the visit, the team hoped to better understand the range of farm businesses in the region and the issues they are facing, alongside meet with food businesses to understand their perspective on the current trading landscape.

SFI roadshow at Sedgemoor Market

The team's trip started off at the SFI (Sustainable Farming Incentive) member meeting at Sedgemoor Market.

“We value the diversity in the range of farms that the region has to offer and look forward to seeing them grow further.”

Amy Fry, NFU Food Business Unit Chief Adviser

At the event, we heard NFU Vice President David Exwood talk about what offers are available under SFI, considerations around eligibility, monitoring and compliance as well as factors to bear in mind for those with Countryside Stewardship agreements. The event was also attended by Defra and regional NFU colleagues. 

The room was full of a diverse range of NFU members highlighting the value of these events amongst membership. For the Food Business team, it was insightful to hear the types of queries and concerns farmers had to share, which will be valuable for their supply chain stakeholder engagement. From their discussions with members at the event, it was evident that farmers want to invest in nature friendly farming but they need the right tools to do so with clear government support.

Somerset Levels at West Yeo Farm

The next stop for the Food Business team was a meeting with James Winslade, who farms at West Yeo Farm on the Somerset Levels. James, an arable and beef farmer, shared his devastating story of the flooding events of 2014 and the challenges presented by the Environment Agency. The team heard about the sheer scale of devastation and the long lasting impact that the floods had on James, his family and the rural community. 

The team finished their first day in the area with a delicious meal at the Hankridge Arms alongside local members and regional county advisors, where they learnt more about local farmers in the area and the types of challenges they are faced with. 

Sheppy's Cider

The next morning, the team headed off to Sheppy's Cider to learn about their cider production, supply chain opportunities and challenges, along with their wider farm diversification model.

Currently heading the family business is Louisa Sheppy, who bought the team down to Sheppy's 90 acre orchard to talk them through the heritage of the orchard, as well as how apples are harvested and the overall orchard management.

From here, the team got a behind the scenes tour of Sheppy’s press house and vat house, getting to see the entire process from orchard, to bottling. The tour was finished up with a delicious tasing session, where Louisa talked through the differences between each cider. 

Barber’s Farmhouse Cheese

The Food Business team finished up their trip to the southwest with a visit to Barber's Farmhouse Cheese in Shepton Mallet. The Barber family started making cheese on the family farm in 1833, six generations ago.

For the team, it was great to see the passion, knowledge and dedication which has been passed on through generations of the family. 

First up was a factory tour, where the Food Business Team could see how raw milk is turned into West Country Cheddar using traditional manufacturing methods unique to the Barber family.

Following the tour they met with Michael Masters, Head of Milk Supplies & Operations, to understand more about how the company work with their direct pool of farmer suppliers and their approach to nature friendly farming.


A photo of the production line at Barber's Farmhouse Cheese.

Barber's only source milk from over 150 farms within a 30 mile radius, which allows them to produce PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) accredited cheddar. Barbers pride themselves on their collaborative approach to working with their suppliers, which is based on long-term relationships and knowledge sharing.

Barber's understand the importance environmentally friendly farming alongside sustainable food production. They are working with farmers on a number of environmental projects and supporting farmers through the process of carbon foot printing their businesses.

Amy Fry, Chief Adviser of the Food Business Unit said: “It's been great meeting with such a variety of NFU members in the South West of England.

“It has been fantastic to have the opportunity to hear from a number of members at our SFI meetings and suppliers that are getting our great produce out to customers.

“We value the diversity in the range of farms that the region has to offer and look forward to seeing them grow further.”

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