Peninsula Enterprise delivers the RURAL FOCUS service across the South West. Find out how RURAL FOCUS adviser for Cornwall Caroline Weston has worked with Penter Produce, entrepreneurial small holders, who have created a thriving local produce supply business:
After 54 years in business, one would expect it to be time to put the feet up and enjoy a well-earned retirement. That’s exactly what Adrian Penter and his wife Wendy planned to do with a small-holding in Lanreath after handingresponsibility for their former business interests to younger members of the family. But, the combination of green fingers and a magic touch in business development has put all retirement plans on hold as demand for produce from their new horticultural venture continues to exceed all expectations.
“After such a busy working life in the building and haulage sectors, we were keen to remain active in our retirement together and the idea of having a smallholding and growing some fruit and vegetables for the family really appealed to us,” explains Adrian.
“I guess we just got rather carried away with the idea as it soon became obvious we were growing far too much for our family and had to resort to selling surplus produce at our front gate. But I had no idea that there would be such a very high demand for home grown vegetables and fruit within the local area. It wasn’t long before I knew we needed to speak to an Adviser at Rural Focus to help us identify the steps we could take to manage this demand and the expansion of our enterprise.”
Called Penter Produce, Adrian and Wendy’s venture is now supplying a huge range of root vegetables, brassicas, beans and salad produce to local residents as well as local markets, pubs and restaurants. In response to customer demand they have also introduced strawberries, spinach and herbs and a few chickens to provide free range eggs. Their flock of chickens has now grown to be fifty-strong and they are now one of the area’s leading free-range suppliers.
“The help we’ve had from Caroline Weston, an Adviser at Rural Focus, has been invaluable,” says Adrian. “Although I’ve managed a number of my own businesses over the years and remain actively involved with the Federation of Small Businesses, the supply of fresh produce was certainly a new area for Wendy and me. It was really helpful, therefore, to have guidance on matters as diverse as food labelling and packaging, pricing strategies, EU food regulations, supply chain partners and even crop rotation. She’s also helped us to develop a clear business action plan for the enterprise so that we manage our growth and operate as efficiently as possible throughout the year.”
Adrian and Wendy have now invested in new horticultural machinery to simplify soil preparation and planting, vacuum-packing equipment so that surplus stock can be frozen for off-season sales, improved facilities for washing, drying and packing the fresh produce and a new 400sqm polythene tunnel.
They are now also introducing new members of staff to take over some of the day-to-day operations on site and have taken additional steps to ensure that all waste and any substandard produce is put to good use. As well as providing the fresh vegetables and fruits for locally-produced chutneys and jams, the couple have recently introduced a pedigree Saddleback pig who has just produced her first litter of piglets.
“Retirement just doesn’t seem to be in Adrian and Wendy’s vocabulary,” says Caroline Weston. “What started off as a relatively modest hobby to keep them active and provide fresh produce for their family has become yet another business success story for the two of them.
“They are truly an inspirational couple in everything they do – even to the extent of developing their own highly innovative way of planting seeds and propagating plants to simplify the growing operations. As they look to increase the acreage of their operation in response to the growing demand for their fresh produce, I believe they are now very well placed to manage the future growth of their thriving new venture without putting themselves under avoidable physical or financial pressure.”
To find out how RURAL FOCUS can help your business call 08456 047 047 or visit www.ruralfocus.info