When former City fund managers Richard and Fionagh Harding moved into their 350 acre farm in Bude in 2006, they had no experience of farming. Today, with the support of their four children, the couple are running the highly successful Norton Barton Artisan Food Village, home to some of the county’s top artisan food producers.
Having experienced the challenges of making a living from farming during the early years, the enterprising couple took the decision to diversify and in 2011 they created Cornish Charcuterie, producing a range of pates, rillettes, salamis, chorizo and cured meats from their herd of Cornish Lop pigs.
In 2015 Norton Barton became one of the first Food Enterprise Zones in Cornwall and the only artisan village in the UK.
“Our vision has been to create a group of quality artisan producers happy to work together to develop a thriving business community and create more jobs in the local economy,” says Richard Harding.
“Becoming a Food Enterprise Zone meant we could offer premises and support to innovative local start-ups to enable them to develop and trial new products without the financial risk that comes from going it alone. This has helped to encourage more talented people to join our local food industry.”
The food village is also a popular visitor destination, with café, bar, function room and woodland walk all on site. The family are committed to being as environmentally-friendly as possible, with 65-85% of power for the food village generated by their wind turbine. They are also using recyclable packaging wherever possible and looking to alternatives to plastics.
One challenge often facing rural businesses looking to expand is access to the internet, with slow speeds and unreliable connections making it difficult to develop new online markets.
Early last year, thanks to support from the Superfast Cornwall project and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme, Norton Barton was connected to full fibre superfast broadband.
First set up in 2011 and part funded by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and, more recently, by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), Superfast Cornwall has played a vital role in boosting digital connectivity and improving the productivity of local businesses.
“The superfast connection has made a massive difference to us,” says Richard.
“It’s had a really positive impact for the whole enterprise. With our previous broadband connection, low speeds and poor reliability were a real barrier to growth. Now we are able to make the most of digital technology and the cloud, which means we can streamline our operations and grow.
“The arrival of superfast broadband means that our artisan businesses can now make much more effective use of online sales, reaching out to new customers as well as supplying existing customers remotely. We can also make better use of video as part of our marketing.”
Access to superfast has also provided benefits for other areas of the business. The food village recently invested in some high tech production equipment manufactured in the Netherlands. The superfast connection means diagnosis and preventative maintenance can now be carried out remotely by the manufacturers, saving time and money.
“Superfast broadband has revolutionised our business, opening up new opportunities and enabling us to turn our ambitious vision into reality,” says Richard. “Without a superfast connection, I think there was a real danger that the enterprise could have stagnated.
“Now we are able to move ahead with confidence and plan for future growth. As a result, these are really exciting times for everyone working at Norton Barton.”
For more information about Superfast Cornwall visit: www.superfastcornwall.org