Name: Laura Strathern
Business: Fairfields Farm Crisps
“I would encourage anyone, especially women, to go into agriculture and the food industry. They are both fantastic industries with so much to offer. I am proud to set an example for my children and show them there is so much opportunity.”
Laura Strathern and her husband Robert founded Fairfields Farm Crisps, near Colchester in Essex, in 2007, producing hand-cooked potato crisps and Fairfields Farm potatoes. Since then the family business has grown into an award-winning enterprise, producing 10,000 tons of potatoes every year across 550 acres, and exporting to 20 countries.
Both from farming backgrounds, the couple grow all their produce using natural and local ingredients powered with renewable energy from their own anaerobic digestion plant and solar panels on the farm.
Laura says: “Coming from a farming background, I have always had an interest in agriculture and food from an early age, so this felt like the natural choice. My role now is overseeing payments and wages within accounts, planning our trade and consumer shows as well as making daily decisions about the business with Robert.”
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the ten year old business. “Starting out you have to have a firm plan, stick to your core values and work hard,” said Laura. “However, growing a brand and running your own business you are always going to make mistakes. The important thing is learning from the mistakes and addressing problems straight away. As a small family business, we can tackle any problems head on.”
Fairfields has been widely praised for its flavours, and in 2016 scooped more great taste awards than any other crisp maker in Great Britain. Laura added: “I think another memorable highlight was winning the East of England Co-op Producer of the Year for 2016 – it was a great honour and we are both very proud of the award.”
For Laura, her two children – eight-year-old Angus and six-year-old Imogen – are her main motivation. With much of her free time outside of work spent attending football matches, children’s parties and play dates, both Laura and Robert are busy juggling work with family life.
“We rarely get a lie-in; with the office across the garden we have no excuse but we are very lucky we can walk to work. Work life balance can be tricky sometimes – it is hard for any parent to juggle work and children, especially when you are running your own business as you can never just step away from it.”
Producing locally grown and sourced food is something that both Laura and Robert are very passionate about. Laura strongly believes in the importance of buying local. “It is vital to shop local to balance the rural economy. Our customers want high quality, traceability and something unique to the local area; they want to buy products from local producers who they can identify with.”
Laura’s sister is also involved in agriculture and has been running the family farm since 2003 when their father sadly passed away. Laura explains: “On the farm my sister drove the combine harvester and I had to drive the corn cart, as we had to get the harvest in – there are plenty of women out there driving tractors!”
For Laura, it goes without saying that women are as involved as men in agriculture. “I would encourage anyone, especially women, to go into agriculture and the food industry. They are both fantastic industries with so much to offer. I am proud to set an example for my children and show them there is so much opportunity.”
For further information about Fairfields Farm Crisps visit: www.fairfieldsfarmcrisps.co.uk.