Animals don’t stop for lockdown, and at family-run farm to fork pork processing business, Wicks Manor, not only did they manage to keep things ticking over but also increase deliveries and range to meet surging shopper demand.
Based in Tolleshunt Major in the Essex countryside since 1967, Wicks Manor employs 45 staff and supplies UK retail and food service customers as well as international export markets.
It produces award-winning bacon, ham, sausages and burgers from farm-reared stock and Red Tractor sourced pork. Its farm-reared pork is fed with wheat and barley grown on Essex arable land and milled on the farm, with processing taking place on site.
Wicks Manor prioritises animal welfare – its pigs are reared in open yards with plenty of room to roam - and it has a strong ethical focus with all farm manure going to fertilise the following year’s crops, solar panels capturing the sun’s energy to power its processing plant, while its products have no added hormones or antibiotics.
“The farm has been run by three generations of the Howie family and we have the fourth generation snapping at our heels,” explains Fergus Howie, who runs the farm. “Everything we produce has to be of high quality, as it has our name on it, and with all the hard work that goes into farming we need the final bacon, ham and sausages to be the very best that we can possibly produce.”
During the coronavirus crisis, Wicks Manor’s business was significantly impacted; while retail demand increased by 20 per cent, its food service market collapsed by 100 per cent. The company decided to extend the lines it supplied to the East of England Co-op and the number of stores serviced.
“We covered off any and every order we received and managed to maintain the production in a very difficult year,” says Fergus. “We altered production times and extended the working day to allow bubbles of production staff to insulate against the effects of any potential rash of cases within our staffing.
Commenting on being a finalist, he adds: “It is great to be recognised. It has been a ghastly year for everyone and in farming you can’t switch off or close the office; the cycles of Mother Nature keep rolling like time or tide. To farm effectively, you need to engage with these rhythms or become a bad farmer.
“We thank our customers for supporting our brand in this turbulent year. We have three generations worth of work that has built our business, so we are not going anywhere, and as long as our customers keep supporting us, we will keep going regardless of the weather, the economy or the pandemic.”