Welcome to SELECTED interview, my regular interview series featuring the very best entrepreneurs and business leaders Somerset has to offer. Today I’m interviewing a prominent business leader Richard Clothier, Managing Director of Wyke Farms. Producing award winning cheddar, this South West business based near Bruton currently trades in over 160 countries world wide.
Passionate about sustainability and boasting happy cows, Wyke Farms work hard to ensure they produce the best quality cheese that is 100% sustainable. Using Biogas as an energy source means the Wyke Farms dairy is off the grid and they’re not stopping there. Wyke Farms have signed a 12 month contact with supermarket giant Sainsbury’s to supply biogas to run their stores reducing store carbon emissions by 24,000 tonnes over the course of the year.
Richard, a 3rd generation farmer, knows how important it is to work with nature, but don’t just take my word for it, over to Richard…
Tell us about you?
I’m Richard Clothier, I’m a cheese maker from Somerset. I first started grading cheese at 6 years old. My family have been making cheese for hundreds of years and I’m proud to be the Managing Director of Wyke Farms one of the oldest cheesemakers in the world.
Tell us about your business?
The art of traditional cheese making will never be lost on the Somerset farm where my family have been making Cheddar in Somerset for over 150 years. In the last year or so, we have been working with a well-known Genealogist to look further into our family history, and have found documents which show we were making cheese as a family as early as 1780! 81 years earlier than first thought.
Today, Wyke Farms is one of the largest independent cheese makers and milk processors in the UK producing over 13,000 tonnes of Cheddar per year to the same award-winning secret recipe.
A few things have changed since my grandmother Ivy made her first truckle of Cheddar all those years ago, but one thing will always remain the same – our family’s craftsmanship and genuine passion for creating a delicious Cheddar everyone can enjoy.
Wyke Farms Cheddar is still aged in wooden maturing boxes and constantly monitored by our Master Cheese Grader, to ensure a delicious taste and guaranteed quality. It’s this commitment that’s helped us win more awards than any other Farmhouse Cheddar brand. Something we’re very proud of. And we know Ivy would be too.
We respect the land, we respect the animals and we respect the environment. The natural way is the only way to make great Cheddar. If you look after nature; then nature will look after you.
Here at Wyke Farms, we are constantly finding new ways to create a truly symbiotic relationship with the countryside that provides our food, our income and our home.
What is your background?
As I said, I first started grading cheese with my Dad at 6 years old and cheese-making and farming has been my life. I’m passionate about UK farming and proud that our Ivy’s Vintage cheddar is being sold in 160 countries around the world.
What do you feel are your best achievements?
I’m massively proud of what our team have achieved with our exports. Together we have managed to export our cheese from a relatively small farm in Somerset to 160 countries around the world – some that I couldn’t even name! I’d like to think my grandmother would be proud to see her name on all that cheese especially when she never left Somerset or went on a plane!!
What have you learnt running your own business, what advice would you give a budding entrepreneur?
Collect really good people, look after them well and make them feel like part of the family.
What are your goals for 2017?
Make more cheese that we can be proud of in a way that we can be proud of and tell more people about it!
What is your mission statement and why?
Our shared objective is to be the leading supplier of quality branded dairy products to the UK and World markets, focusing on our history, our provenance and sustainability.
We will make and supply the best quality dairy products in the most sustainable way possible to our customers; the multiple retailers, catering industry and independent sector.
We will stay true to the family values that my Grandparents held so close. This means that we will focus on doing business in a way that creates a net-positive impact on our people, the community and the environment.
We aim to do business that we can be proud of, in the way that we can be proud of.
Tell us how you named your business?
We named it after the fantastic village that we work in Wyke Champflower – or Champfleur – ‘field of flowers’.
It’s our home! There is nowhere more beautiful with such great people. It’s fantastic for dairy farming too!
Who inspires you?
My grandmother. People talk a lot about ‘girl power’ now. My grandmother stood beside my grandfather and ran a business, managed people and made fantastic cheese – 100 years ago, before they could even vote! No one messed with her or her cheese!
My dad as well, he taught me how important it was to build a good team and wasn’t scared to employ people and bring them into the family business.
What or who is the driving force behind your business?
My grandparents and my father always taught us that we should do business that we can be proud of in a way that we can be proud of. Their pride and passion drives the business.
What makes you stand out from other businesses in your niche?
I believe that we make the best cheese in the world. We have a fantastic story and lovely people, but at the end of the day the cheese is the best.
What is important to you?
Aside from cheese, my family and my friends that I work with. I quite like Rafferty my dog too!
What drives you?
I am driven by a need to make the people in the business before me proud of what we do. We have a responsibility to my grandparents, my father and all our predecessors to make our cheese and run the business in a way that would make them happy.
What are your ‘words to live by’?
Take pride in what you do at work and in your home-life. Treat others how you wish to be treated.
Tell us about your latest project?
We are extremely proud to be working with our friends at Good Energy on a collaborative project which we hope will help towards creating a cleaner, greener future. As well as making award-winning cheddar, Wyke Farms put sustainability at the heart of everything we do, closely aligned to Good Energy’s mission to help combat climate change.
Richard with Juliet Davenport CEO of Good Energy
Now live, we are hosting an ‘on-pack’ competition with Good Energy for 20 weeks, giving our shoppers the opportunity to win one of several prizes. The main prize is a lifetime supply of renewable electricity (value £22k), as well as 20 x ‘one year supply’ (capped at £550 per year each) and 50 Somerset produce hampers, worth £50 each. The competition will appear on all Wyke Farms Cheddar packs (approx. 5 million), across the core range of Mature, Extra Mature and Vintage.
Both brands share a passion for food and energy provenance and, through this partnership, hope to increase consumer understanding of the environmental consequences of their consumption choices, be it for food or energy.
With over 50% of food coming from a foreign country and 60% of energy coming from abroad both companies are keen to help consumers make better choices when it comes to the environment. By switching to greener energy, or buying food from local producer’s shoppers can make an immediate impact, one which benefits everyone!
The 20-week competition will also be supported by a social campaign using the hashtag #PowerOfCheese, which will include content on how people can reduce waste and live a ‘greener’ life.
More information on our new competition can be found at www.wykefarms.com/goodenergy
Participating Supermarkets: Waitrose, Asda, Ocado, Iceland, Sainsburys, Tesco, Lidl, Home Bargains, Londis and Budgens
Finally, what do you love most about Somerset?
The people, the landscape, the farming, the food and the seasons.
*Sponsored Post. This post was written in collaboration with Wyke Farms.