Our customer Stuart Perkins made the shortlist for Younger Farmer of Year Awards!

Monday, June 27th, 2016 by

Congratulations to our customer Stuart Perkins for making the shortlist in the Farmers Weekly Younger Farmer of Year Awards! Here’s a copy of his bio below:

Stuart Perkins

Haywood Farm, Bath, Somerset

It all started with a birthday present for Stuart Perkins.

The 30-year-old, who grew up on the family dairy farm run by his father and late uncle, was given 12 chickens as a surprise sixth birthday present. This led to him selling eggs at the farm gate in Somerset.

This hobby became his business in 2004, when he was granted a Prince’s Trust loan of £4,000 to buy a mobile layer shed, and he established Castlemead Poultry.

The investments since have been rather larger and today the firm, of which Stuart is the sole proprietor, has 7,500 laying hens and processes up to 5,000 birds a week in its own EU-licensed abattoir.

Stuart-Perkins-c-Jim-Wileman

The farm kills about 3,500 of its own birds each week and also  slaughters for other producers.

Things really got going when Stuart returned home in 2007 after doing a degree in rural land management at Cirencester. He began to expand his poultry enterprise, which had surpassed the dairy business when it ceased in 2012.

“It was a difficult decisions moving from dairy to poultry but we didn’t really have a choice,” says Stuart.

Last year was another “huge leap” for Stuart, when he went from processing about 180 birds/week in a small, on-farm cutting unit to building his new slaughtering facilities.

He spotted a gap in the market because there were no local poultry abattoirs. By setting up his own and getting it licensed, he has been able to create a successful diversification, as well as ensuring he gets all the value from producing his own stock.

“The hard work is in the farming,” says Stuart. “And processing ourselves unlocks the value in that work.”

Stuart managed the build from start to finish, from idea to funding to construction, which is an incredible feat. “I was just about getting to the brink of losing the plot,” he says.

When you look at this scale of his business, it is hard to believe Stuart is only 30 and, until last year, was running the whole operation by himself from his bedroom in his parents’ house.

Castlemead now employs 18 members of staff to help with farm management, accounts, admin, sales and processing.

Some 40% of his workforce is local and the rest of his team are from Poland and Slovakia. Finding good, reliable staff has been one of the main challenges, as he needs a lot of hands on deck, especially on the two weekly slaughter days, when 15 people are needed on the line.

Stuart is still in partnership with his father on the farm, where they have 120 head of beef cattle, reared for store and finished trade, and 48ha of crops, 25% of which is maize and the rest cereals.

The farm was in the Entry-Level Stewardship scheme and Stuart now intends to apply for Countryside Stewardship.

The farm contracts out all the cultivations, spraying and silaging to keep machinery costs to a minimum. Their homegrown barley and wheat all goes into the broiler finishing ration, but as they get through 60t of feed each month, the farm has to buy in additional cereals, as well as soya and vitamin/mineral mixes.

Stuart’s passion for his business and the poultry industry helps when he is selling the Castlemead range. He looks after most new business opportunities and sales himself, aiming to visit six to eight new customers each week.

Marketing and storytelling is a big focus for Stuart now. “We’re selling to the butcher or shop, not the consumer, so we need to complete that circle with our branding and website,” he says.

There is obviously no stopping Stuart. He has started trials rearing guinea fowl and ducks for the restaurant market and has employed a sales expert to work with him in this area.

Now that the processing facilities are built and complete, Stuart wants to focus on the farm and its costs in order to make the business as profitable as possible.

“I also want to tidy the farm up a bit, as I would like to do Open Farm Sunday,” he says.

“Not many poultry farms do open days, but I think it would be a good way of engaging with consumers.”


You can read the full article here.