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
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, 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.