Business support helps ambitious farm build a solid platform for growth

Orchard View Farm is a family-run farm that has become a destination for local people and visitors to Buckinghamshire. Established just over a decade ago, Orchard View, with its café, farm shop, butchery and rare breeds farm, is right at the heart of the local community.

Owner Jim Mackellar has ambitious plans for growth. Quitting a high-paid job in IT to combine a passion for the environment with his love of the local area, Jim and his talented team have created a popular business with a positive ethos that puts a premium on family, the environment and sustainability.

Jim has built a hard-working, dedicated team that shares his vision for the business and, together with Jim, is delivering the growth that the farm is capable of. Employing 25 staff in total across the 27.5-acre site, Jim is also passionate about hiring young people to work at the farm, providing them with the opportunity to learn workplace and life skills. His two young children, aged just seven and nine, also get involved and already show an entrepreneurial flair!

Orchard View supports other local businesses and utilises local supply chain links encompassing products such as milk, meat, beer, cider and uniforms, but this is just scratching the surface of the contribution the farm could make to the local economy in the long term.

With an eye on the future, Jim faced a challenge familiar to many business owners. To grow the business, he needed to step away from the day-to-day running and focus on business development, which is when he contacted the Visit Buckinghamshire Business Advisory Service (VBAS).

The VBAS team conducted a business review of Orchard View Farm and a business adviser provided advice on how Jim could develop a management structure that would enable him to step back, and allow others in the team to step forward, maximising all the skills at his disposal within the team.

Jim also worked with a tourism specialist through the VBAS service who advised on marketing planning, which led to members of staff at the farm receiving social media training.

With an estimated contribution to the local economy of approximately £250,000 a year, Orchard View Farm is already a positive contributor to the local area, but Jim’s growth plans could see this contribution skyrocket.

“I want to introduce a campsite to the farm, one that will encompass 50 pitches,” says Jim. “I estimate that this will increase our contribution to the local economy by a further £700,000 a year, so it’s something the local community can get behind. The site can attract foreign visitors and UK holidayers alike.

“This diversification is crucial to our growth plans and so the support I received from VBAS that helped me upskill and focus on being a manager was really important. Without this time for me to spend focusing on growth, it will be harder to achieve.

“It’s businesses like mine that are ‘doing the doing’ and propelling the economy. If the new campsite comes off, it can create more jobs at the farm and increase visitors to the local area, something that benefits all local businesses and attractions.”

Jim attended networking events suggested by the VBAS team, and here he met and teamed up with a business coach who is helping him to further develop his growth plans and encouraging him to work with other local businesses in the visitor economy. “We are proud to give more than we get,” says Jim, “and would like to create a joined-up, supportive network of businesses around us, one where we all support each other and work in partnership. The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Jeremy Green, VBAS Business Adviser, comments: “Jim has the vision and ambition, but just needed the head space to make his growth plans a reality. It has been great to be able to help him at the start of his journey to create growth in a sustainable and ethical way. The campsite development will allow the further growth of a successful local business, as well as provide additional local employment opportunities in some of the lower skilled occupations that are in particularly high demand from residents.”

Lucy Dowson at Visit Buckinghamshire adds: “The campsite could provide much needed accommodation for visitors to the county. It could also boost visitor spending in the area by encouraging longer stays for those visiting local attraction and events, including the Marlow Regatta, the Pub in the Park food festival, the Kop Hill climb, Aero Expo, FrogFest, and Penn Festival, and provide a base for walkers and cyclists visiting the Chilterns.”

The Visit Buckinghamshire Business Advisory Service (VBAS) is funded by HS2 through their Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF) to help businesses mitigate the impacts of HS2 and take advantage of available support to become more resilient and improve their performance.