How Cotswold busi­nesses are reap­ing the ben­e­fits of ru­ral grants

Busi­nesses around the Cotswolds are reap­ing the ben­e­fits of fund­ing through the LEADER ru­ral grants pro­gramme

Cotswold Life - - EDITOR’S COMMENT - WORDS: Siân El­lis

Since its launch in Novem­ber 2015, the Cotswolds LEADER pro­gramme of ru­ral grants has sup­ported 17 projects, ap­prov­ing fund­ing worth more than £462,000.

“Every pro­ject is dif­fer­ent and we have been en­cour­aged by the di­ver­sity of ap­pli­cants,” says James Webb, Pro­gramme Manager. “We have sup­ported farm­ers, food pro­duc­ers, re­tail­ers, wood fuel sup­pli­ers and tourist providers.”

Part of the Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme for Eng­land and fi­nanced by the Euro­pean Agri­cul­tural Fund for Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment, LEADER is a na­tional pro­gramme which in the Cotswolds is run by the Cotswolds Con­ser­va­tion Board. It aims to grow the ru­ral econ­omy through cap­i­tal grant in­vest­ment and to cre­ate new jobs – 18 have re­sulted from grants to date.

“With each pro­ject we also see wider ben­e­fits to the ru­ral econ­omy, com­mu­ni­ties, the en­vi­ron­ment and an­i­mal health and wel­fare,” James adds. “The lat­ter is par­tic­u­larly true for our farm pro­duc­tiv­ity grants. These typ­i­cally sup­port farm tech­nol­ogy, ad­dress­ing is­sues such as mas­ti­tis on dairy farms.”

Grants from £5,000–£50,000 are con­sid­ered across six in­vest­ment themes: mi­cro/ small en­ter­prise and farm di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, ru­ral tourism, farm pro­duc­tiv­ity, ru­ral services, cul­ture and her­itage, and forestry. Larger grants from £50,000–£100,000 can be con­sid­ered un­der mi­cro/small en­ter­prises for projects that cre­ate high job out­puts.

Jo Bur­gon, Chairman of the Cotswolds Lo­cal Ac­tion Group, says: “By sup­port­ing both start-up schemes and the ex­pan­sion of ex­ist­ing busi­nesses, grants can help grow the vi­a­bil­ity and re­silience of the Cotswolds ru­ral econ­omy and its com­mu­ni­ties.”

CAPREOLUS DIS­TILLERY

Capreolus Dis­tillery, Cirences­ter (www.capre­o­lus­dis­tillery.co.uk) is among the busi­nesses to have re­ceived sup­port, with a grant of £10,463 to help scale up pro­duc­tion.

Bar­ney Wil­czak set up his dis­tillery, mak­ing eaux de vie and gin, in his lean-to green­house in the gar­den in the sum­mer of 2016. Things took off: his Gar­den Tiger gin scooped Spirit of the Year from The Whisky Ex­change, high-end bars and restau­rants stock his prod­uct, ex­ports have reached a dozen coun­tries on four con­ti­nents.

“We hit ca­pac­ity very quickly. We ex­pected to sell 2,500 bot­tles in Year One; we did 10,000 bot­tles,” he says.

The dis­tillery uses lo­cal

in­gre­di­ents wher­ever pos­si­ble. “We use up to 45 ki­los of fruit per litre of spirit and 80% of our fruit comes from within 50 miles of the dis­tillery, to guar­an­tee an ab­so­lute level of qual­ity and peak ripeness. We pay the farm­ers a pre­mium price. It’s ex­cit­ing to be able to talk of the Cotswolds ter­roir.”

Bar­ney’s Cotswolds LEADER grant, to­wards a new still, mash pump, con­tain­ers, trailer and strad­dle stacker for fruit, and an upgraded power sup­ply, means he can move the busi­ness for­ward more quickly. He has also taken on a full-time op­er­a­tions manager.

“With the as­sis­tance of the grant we will be able to ex­pand whilst main­tain­ing stan­dards. This helps the ru­ral econ­omy too, from busi­nesses that sell our pre­mium prod­ucts to farm­ers who will ben­e­fit from ev­er­in­creas­ing pur­chases of their crops.”

WOT­TON FARM SHOP

Wot­ton Farm Shop, Wot­ton un­der Edge (www.wot­ton­farmshop.co.uk) re­ceived a grant of £47,972 to­wards ex­ten­sive build­ing work to dou­ble re­tail space.

The farm shop had “slowly but surely evolved” from a shed in 1993, third-gen­er­a­tion farmer Paul Grimes says, while build­ing in 2006 cre­ated a more sub­stan­tial out­let. But plans for fur­ther growth got put on hold due to fund­ing chal­lenges.

“The Cotswolds LEADER grant made all the dif­fer­ence, help­ing us to go ahead,” Paul says.

Build­ing has re­sulted in ex­tra space to house a new deli, the new Pot­ting Shed café with small kitchen, and many new prod­ucts for sale in the en­larged shop. Paul is also look­ing at tak­ing on more staff.

With more avail­able space in the main kitchen, a greater num­ber and range of the shop’s pop­u­lar ready meals – from Steak and Guin­ness Pie to quiches – can be cooked. Fruit and veg from the farm and lo­cally sourced in­gre­di­ents like meat, eggs, milk and cream are used.

“Cus­tomers love it,” Paul says. “The oak frame por­tico looks like part of an old barn and the whole shop and deli counter has the wow-fac­tor. The cof­fee area is also be­com­ing a bit of a so­cial hub.”

SALTPIG CUR­ING COM­PANY

Ben Dul­ley, a chef for more than ten years in some of the UK’S best kitchens, launched Saltpig Cur­ing Com­pany Ltd (www. salt­pigcur­ing.co.uk) last sum­mer with the aim of creat­ing the best salamis and cured meats in the coun­try. His £13,011 Cotswolds LEADER grant has helped to­wards the con­ver­sion of a busi­ness unit at Chip­ping Nor­ton, in­clud­ing a hy­gienic butch­ery area, cold room, dry­ing room and as­so­ci­ated equip­ment.

“The set-up has been quite ex­pen­sive and it would have been ques­tion­able if I could have man­aged with­out a grant,” he says. “I would cer­tainly have had to com­pro­mise on the qual­ity of equip­ment.”

For­tu­nately, that has not been the case and Ben’s tasty range of prod­ucts in­cludes smoked ten­der­loin, beer sticks (pork, beef and Ox­ford­shire chilli or Cotswold chorizo bar snacks) and Cotswold ‘Nduja (a spread­able salami packed with lo­cally grown chilli, its flavour rounded with beer from Hook Nor­ton). He sells to pubs, restau­rants and delis, and plans to sell via farm­ers’ mar­kets too.

Ben sources rare breed pigs for his prod­ucts from lo­cal farm­ers, and he says care and re­spect for in­gre­di­ents are cru­cial in mak­ing good salamis with plenty of time for cur­ing and dry­ing to al­low na­ture to do its work.

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