Ribble Valley farming duo Emma Robinson and Ian O’Reilly (pictured)are delighted to have been shortlisted for the British Farming Awards in the category “Diversification Innovator of the Year”.
Following success at the Clitheroe Food Festival, where Gazegill Organics and Emma’s Dairy scooped the “Best Producer” award, the shortlisting has come as a real surprise. The couple, who farm Gazegill Organic Farm in Rimington, have over the past few years undertaken a number of diversification projects all aimed at taking the produce of the farm away from wholesale and into direct retail. The business also launched an online shop last year and the response has been overwhelming.
Ian explained: “There are many people out there who are turning to the internet and mail order to find the exact produce they are looking for, which is not available to them locally, and our biggest sellers are the raw milk and GMO free meats we produce.”
Emma added: “We have put a tremendous amount of work into making the farm’s produce available to a direct audience and it all started with the farm butchery. The hardest piece of the jigsaw has been the dairy processing where we bottle raw milk and also process milk for schools and universities.
“It has been a long road but really worth every minute of the work we have put in.” The farm also has an education centre where groups can learn about food and farming as well as conservation and sustainable farming methods. It hosted 263 free group trips last year, with the majority reconnecting with their food at primary production level.
The education centre also plays host to the farms’ CIC Care Farm where 16 adults with learning difficulties undertake activities and grow herbs and edible flowers which they retail.
Ian commented: “The care farm has been a great project for us as it is providing meaningful and exciting activities for a diverse group of participants. The retail side of the project is particularly enjoyed by some, whilst others love the growing side”.
As for the future, Ian added: “We are far from finished yet and have a number of exciting projects up our sleeves which will be rolled out over the next few years”.
The British Farming Awards take place in Droitwich on October 23rd.