Why I turned my back on the city to work at the family food business: Cheshire Farm Chips’ Lucy Jackson reveals all
At the age of just 26 Lucy Jackson is arguably one of the youngest directors in the food industry. She decided post university that following her sibling into the money markets wasn’t for her, instead choosing to focus on growing Cheshire Farm Chips, the award winning family food business.
“I always knew that working in the family business was what I wanted to do and after university I was champing at the bit to join! My parents took some serious persuading though. They thought I should go off and have ‘a life’ but I don’t think I have ever felt so fulfilled or rewarded. I have a deep-rooted knowledge of the business, having been around it all my life. We talk as a family and therefore talk at length about the running and future of the business!” she told Luxury Lifestyle Magazine.
And Lucy is having an impact. Since she has taken over turnover has hugely increased.
She explained: “We have doubled our turnover since I started working with the sales side of the business, by working with Blakemore Fine Foods and signing up a large number of stores. We are all in a global market which is of course wonderful for initiative and business opportunities but we retain the ethos of our roots; namely farm fresh products with no added preservatives from our little corner of Cheshire. It seems to work! People are always surprised when they learn our products are free from additives and gluten but why would we want to spoil the taste of our products.
“Often there is only 48 hours between the potatoes being dug up and the dishes made which is why they are so fresh they can safely be kept in the fridge for up-to two weeks or be frozen.”
So what gets Lucy up in the morning? “I love where I work and I love my job! Nothing is so beautiful as the view that hits me as a I drive down the road to the farm. I wish I could bottle it. It’s a cliché in farming but everyday brings a new challenge,” she told us. “Ultimately I want the world to taste our products! To realise how good British produce can be. I am fired up by that thought all day long. At the moment we have 5 products in our range but I am hoping to expand the range very soon!” she added.
The Jackson family has a long history of providing for the local community and Lucy wanted to bring back the old farm shop. She said: “The re-opening of the farm shop was my idea and it’s something I am very much working on to bring more presence to the brand in the local area. I wanted the company to go back to our roots and provide the service directly to the community like we once did (Lucy’s grandparents ran the local farm shop in the 1970’s). I like the fact that people can come straight up-to the farm and buy the products. It makes us accessible and approachable and it keeps the family tradition alive. Of course that’s not really an option for anyone outside of Cheshire so we work hard to make sure people can buy us in their local high end farm shop as well as Waitrose and Selfridges!
“We are British and the humble potato will always be a part of our diet and I am glad about that because of course the potato isn’t really humble at all! It’s packed with packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals such as vitamin B-6, vitamin C, iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium and zinc.”
Next we asked her about the downsides to working in a family business. “I don’t have any cons,” she commented. “Sometimes in a family business, experience of working within another company can help you realise the true value of what hard work goes into running a family business and what you sometimes have to do in order to succeed. the advice I would give is to have 12 months working within the family business and then 12 months working for another company, because this is a big test as to you finding out if it is what you want to do. Following this, you need to assess whether the values you have match those of the existing family members working in the business and whether you think you can move the business forward,” added Lucy.
Lucy is also keen to use her influence and knowledge to help others that are less fortunate and Cheshire Farm Chips have built a growing reputation as an ethical brand with a strong sense of responsibility and a big heart.
“We give surplus stock to food banks in the local area to make sure none of the stock goes to waste. I feel this is so important, so much food goes to waste needlessly which is a scandal when so many are going hungry,” Lucy outlined.
She added: “I also decided that the company was to have a charity of the year and we chose Claire House Childrens Hospice which is on the Wirral. As part of our fundraising, I am doing a sky dive which is raising money for the charity. (If you knew how much of a scaredy cat I was then you would know what a big deal this was for me).
“My life feels hugely luxurious. Yes it is hard work but I get to work with a high end product, wonderful people at the top of their game, be involved in a successful production and manufacturing business and look out of my window at the most wonderful views. Ultimately I am lucky to have been born into a wonderfully entrepreneurial family and I want to continue that tradition for as long as I can.”
Cheshire Farm Chips products are sold in selected Waitroses, Booths, Selfridges and online at cheshirefarmchips.co.uk.