Devon farmer sees 600 per cent growth on business

A Devon farmer and cider-maker has grown his business by over 600 per cent since winning the John Neason Award at the 2010 Devon County Show, and says that the award played an important part in achieving his success.

The John Neason Award is offered each year by the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) for progressive, innovative farming businesses.

Barny Butterfield won it in 2010 for the multi-faceted Sandford Orchards business, producing organic chicken, Ruby Red beef and top quality cider that he built up on his Devon County Council small-holding at Sandford near Crediton.

In making their decision, the judges described Barny Butterfield as “young, innovative, prepared to co-operate and bursting with good ideas”.

Since winning the award, Barny has concentrated on building the cider-making aspect of the business, with striking success.

In 2010, his cider received the accolade of being the Best in Britain from CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, and he has followed that this year with two Gold awards for his Devon Red and Shaky Bridge ciders in the national Great Taste Awards and by winning Best Drinks Producer in the Devon Life magazine food and drink awards.

But he says that it was the John Neason award, and the £750 cheque that comes with it, that really set the business on the road to success: “We’ve won lots of prizes, but this was the only one that came with a cheque attached, and it was a cheque big enough to make a real difference to our business.

“When you’re operating on tight margins, and just establishing a business, that was really handy money to have.”

Sandford Orchards now employs six members of staff, has export contracts with several different countries and the 600 per cent growth which has been achieved since winning the John Neason award has enabled Barny’s sister, Tally, to move back to her Devon home from London, to be the business’ head of production.

Barny still produces organic chicken, and Ruby Red beef from the farm’s own herd of Devon cattle, but the chicken business has been hit by consumers cutting back and supermarket pricing policies, where they load the premium on organic chicken in order to be able to sell cheap broilers at a heavily discounted price.

“Since winning the award, we’ve become a cider producer who farms, rather than a small farm with a cider business on the side”, Barny explains.

“It’s amazing how these awards are an affirmation of your hopes that you are pointing in the right direction. They give you confidence to have the courage of your convictions and give the whole team a lift.

“My advice to anyone trying to grow a farming or food business in Devon and wondering whether to enter for the John Neason Award is – go for it! Winning it made all the difference to our business, and it could do for yours as well.”

Run in memory of a former Devon County Land Agent, the 2013 John Neason Awards will be launched in the New Year www.devoncountyshow.co.uk

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