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Award-winning meat producer boosts Melksham customer base thanks to grant

Award-winning Melksham firm Downland Produce is expanding and broadening the customer base for its locally-reared, free-range pork and beef, thanks to an EU-funded Rural Economy Grant.

Husband and wife team David and Debbie Wilkinson have been breeding pigs and producing award-winning ham, bacon and sausages for over 25 years – most recently winning three gold awards and one silver in the Taste of the West awards.

The company has been awarded a £15,105 Rural Economy Grant, designed to help small businesses in rural areas. The grant has helped fund a £38,000 extension to Downland Produce’s Melksham butchery and allowed the business to invest in a new chiller and cook room, increasing capacity. Downland Produce’s pork and beef is all reared free-range at Lackham Farm in partnership with the farm’s owner Wiltshire College, and until now its main outlets have been via farmers’ markets in London. But thanks to the investment, Downland Produce is now planning to supply pubs and restaurants throughout Wiltshire and beyond.

The firm, which employs eight full-time and two part-time staff, also aims to sell its produce online, with door-to-door deliveries from the summer.

David said, “The new facilities will make a huge difference to the business, giving us the extra capacity we need to expand into new markets. We’ve started selling to pubs and restaurants and that’s a big growth area. Chefs are always looking for high-quality, free range produce and with our short local supply chain they can be confident it’s farm fresh and they know exactly where it’s produced.”

The grants are part of the support being offered to start-up and growing small businesses through The Enterprise Network initiative, led by Wiltshire Council. Julian Head from Wiltshire Council, which administered the Rural Economy Grants fund in Wiltshire for Defra said, “The scheme committed over £700,000 of grants to small businesses based in rural areas to help entrepreneurs start-up and expand their businesses.

“This particular scheme has now closed for new applications but we’re hoping to start offering similar rural economy grants through the LEADER and LEP programmes early in 2015.  In the meantime, businesses looking for grants should contact the Wiltshire Business Support Service, part of The Enterprise Network.”