Meet the founder of The Black Farmer
Who is Wilfred the man behind The Black Farmer?
I am passionate, driven and really want to make a difference If there is a heaven I would like to look back at my life and see that I made a positive difference.
I was born in Jamaica, I came to the UK when I was about 3 years old. I was brought up in a classic inner city area. One of the main things about being brought up in a classic inner city area was the lack of hope and opportunity. I remember, my father had an allotment and it was my responsibility to look after it, and I loved it so much.
It was my oasis away from my very miserable surroundings, and I promised myself at the age of 11, that one day I would own my own farm. Since then I have done many things in my life, but this was always at the front of my mind, and it took me nearly 35 years to finally get here. When I did, I saw an opportunity to create my own brand and also pertaining to the fact that in the UK, we don't have many black farmers, in fact I do believe there is only one other black farmer.
How did the public react to you being one of the only Black British farmers in the UK?
Well, traditionally, land is handed down from generation to generation and if you want to buy land or a farmstead now, it is very expensive. The irony is that there a lot of people from an immigrant background, came from a farming community, so they could add great value to the farming industry in the UK, but due to cost, they don't stand a chance.
What I found interesting is that when I bought my farm in Devon, most people couldn't understand why a man raised in an inner city wanted to buy a farm in Devon. This is because a lot of people who live in Devon are trying to get out of this small community, so it comes across quite confusing.
When it came down to that moment, the exact moment you decided, I am going to create my own brand, do you remember what this moment was like?
It wasn't just about that moment for me, it was about my entire life. It was years of dreaming of achieving my goal, so when I finally bought my farm, it was like completing a cycle for me. It very much reminded me of the cycle of life, in that, to start off by having a dream and then achieving that dream, is very uplifting.
As sometimes, we start off with a dream and somewhere along the line, it doesn't happen or we give up along the way, so to actually achieve it, is a great feeling.
Where can we purchase The Black Farmer products?
My products are currently stocked in Sainsburys, Ocado, Co-op and Asda. This list is constantly growing, but what I always say when I get asked this, if anyone would like to see me in their local supermarket, all they have to do is request it.
How did you go about funding your business in the beginning?
I am a firm believer in funding your business on your own for the first two or three years. This is because in the first two of three years, it will be very tough and you will make mistakes. What you don't want is to be lumbered with debts and the expectations of the investor. An investor is only interested in making money, and when you're building a brand or a business, it's not always about making money, well not the first instance.
Your first intention should be to build a reputation and a brand people can trust. It is after this is established and your business has grown past the startup stage, you may want to look into investors, if required, to grow your business. I find that a lot of people search for and secure investments a little to early, so I certainly invested with my savings to get the business off the ground and it was the best decision.
At the moment, a lot of us are focused on living a healthier lifestyle, would you say this is a key focus with your brand?
Yes, there is an element of that to my brand, my products are gluten free which is a great option. Although this is a part of my reason, what I wanted to do was create a brand that was mainstream and not stereotypically a Afro-Caribbean brand. Although I am one of the first brands to go down the gluten free route, that is not everything The Black Farmer has to offer.
Please tell me a bit about your Rural Scholarship Scheme, it sounds very interesting.
It's a scheme where kids from the inner city can come and spend some time on my farm, to experience another perspective and see what it's like to work in Rural Britain. Who knows, one day they may decide to go for a career within the rural profession, which is something they've probably never thought about, coming from an urban environment.
What is your dream for British Farming in the future?
I am hoping that in the years to come, the face of farming will begin to change and reflect some of the other minds that we have in Britain. This way we can bring more diverse and very interesting concepts into the profession. When we think about Britain, we automatically see the beautiful diversity and people from all walks of life, so it would be fantastic to see whether we can reduce importation of foods and grow them here. This could rapidly increase and create an even greater farming community in the UK.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business, but unsure of how to get there?
The key to being successful in business, is to be absolutely passionate and focused. Anyone who becomes successful in business, you will notice one thing in all of them, they are ruthlessly focused. You will realise that you cannot lead the same lifestyle that everyone else leads, because when you think of someone winning a gold medal in the Olympics, it's not just that day. It is about getting up at 4am in the morning and training even when you don't feel like it, it's about absolute discipline, and this is the same thing with business.
Also, don't succumb to the fear mongers, society is full of people who are “yes, but” people, like “yes, you can do that, but”. What I say is no one can predict the future, it's always changing, so rather than think about whether something may or may not happen, keep focus on what you're doing and how you do it.
I have to ask, what plans do you have for The Black Farmer over the coming year?
We have recently launched chicken sausages and beef sausages, plus we have big plans for our next TV advert campaign. The key thing about The Black Farmer brand is to be different, stand out and break the mold, so I am pleased the first ad campaign went down so well. We are challenging the stereotypes, but also producing products that are incredible and absolutely delicious.