Prior to the pandemic, Rymer Farm was not an East of England Co-op supplier, but the egg producing business stepped in to help fill shelves that were emptying fast.
The business, based in Thetford, Suffolk, is one of a handful of small family farming partnerships in the UK to achieve both RSPCA and British Lion Quality assurance status, widely recognised as the highest assurance standard in the world for eggs.
“As a family, we started farming at Rymer Farm in 1925,” explains founder Toby Rush. “Back then, pre-war, my grandfather employed 26 men working the land and would do his daily rounds on horseback. By the time I took over from my father in 1997, we were down to only one full-time employee.
“I was keen to build a more sustainable future and settled on higher welfare egg production with 100 per cent free range hens in 2005, further expanding into packing for retail in 2009 under the Rymer Farm Eggs brand.”
The business takes pride in feeding its smaller flocks a rich diet to produce excellent eggs, and it harnesses renewable energy generation for its henhouses as well as the packing station.
When the coronavirus crisis started, Rymer Farm was not an East of England Co-op supplier but quickly took up the opportunity to become one.
Toby recalls: “At the time I was in my packhouse anxiously trying to secure enough packaging to service our existing customers with lead times on everything extending from weeks to months. But my policy is always to say ‘yes’ and then work out how on earth to manage it later, and that is what we did.
“The East of England Co-op were superb throughout the on-boarding process for a new supplier, which whistled through as fast as a vaccine approval, and we were on the shelves and literally flying off in a matter of days.”
Due to demand from food service customers dropping off and retail soaring, the company had to re-purpose product, which tested pre-pack supply chains. “Luckily, we have very good working relationships with our packaging suppliers who looked after us and our in-house packing team were fantastic. Our team were literally hopping from one foot to another, working extended hours, to get the job done and get packed eggs out to the customers. The hens did their bit too!
“Having the brand nominated has been a tremendous recognition of that hard work. Winning the award would be a huge endorsement for our staff and a boost to the Rymer Farm Egg brand as we push to expand the business and grow the team, supporting local employment as well as our local East of England Co-op customers, year on year.”