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Farmer Ben up for national award thanks to successful catering business

By Rob Smith | Market Drayton | Farming | Published:

A Shropshire farmer has been shortlisted for a national award because of his successful attempt to diversify the long-running family business.

Ben Hollins with one of his young charges at Fordhall Organic Farm

Ben Hollins of Fordhall Organic Farm, just outside Market Drayton, is one of just four finalists in the British Farming Awards’ Diversification Innovator (Large) category, after impressing judges with his event catering business.

Ben and sister Charlotte are the current custodians of the farm, which has been in their family for centuries.

The catering operation was set up in 2006, after Ben recognised the opportunities for income generation from cooking and selling his pasture-fed and free-range meats at local events. From humble beginnings, starting with a couple of griddles purchased from eBay, today Ben runs a fleet of 14 trailers catering for some of the UK’s biggest events – it includes managing all the catering for the cricketing calendar at Edgbaston Stadium.

Ben said: “Initially, we wanted to add value to the livestock, so we started doing a few farmers’ markets. But I noticed that the people who were selling cooked items like bacon and sausages were making more money, so I decided to explore that.”

The catering operation provides employment for more than 70 people throughout the year, and helps to bring in custom to other areas of the farm business – including the popular on-site and online Farm Shop.

'A ray of sunshine'

Ben said: “Being shortlisted as a finalist for this national award has given the whole team here a real boost. The coronavirus pandemic has been a major setback for the event catering business this year, as all of the events we were booked in for have been cancelled.

"The news that we have been shortlisted for this award is a ray of sunshine in the middle of this.

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“As restrictions start to be lifted, we are really looking forward to getting back on track while ensuring we keep everyone safe. During the summer we have put a lot of work into planning how we can adapt to the ‘new normal’, and we are feeling prepared and confident for the months ahead.”

As on the farm, sustainability and environmental values are an important part of the event catering business. Ben has championed the use of compostable and biodegradable packaging and even recycles his spent cooking oil.

Last year, he worked alongside bosses at Edgbaston Stadium to ensure all the caterers at the venue used biodegradable packaging.

The winners of the British Farming Awards will be announced at a special virtual ceremony on October 21. To tune in or to learn more, visit britishfarmingawards.co.uk/awards-night/.

To learn more about the farm, visit fordhallfarm.com/.

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith
Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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