'Turkey farmers are a rare breed' - Halesworth couple secure their future with free range enterprise
PUBLISHED: 11:44 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:59 18 July 2019
Farmers Chris and Judith Mobbs still grow and mill their own feed for their free-range Christmas turkey flock - and think they might be the last growers left that still do.
The Mobbs family has been farming in Suffolk since 1917, and P A Mobbs and Sons, based at Whitehouse Farm, Cratfield, near Halesworth, was a typical mixed east Suffolk farm with pigs, poultry, arable and blackcurrants, but the business has had to change with times - and successive generations.
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"With the changing pressures and practices in farming, as the next generation we knew we needed to do something different that could give us a secure future," explains Chris.
"We decided that growing our free range turkey enterprise was the best option and we have re-organised and expanded the business so that the turkeys are our main enterprise, growing them significantly.
"We wanted to hold true to the heritage of our family's approach which included free ranging and growing our own grain to feed the birds since the farm's first flock in 1934.
"While we have modernised our buildings and preparation for the oven we still grown and mill all the food that our turkeys eat - so zero food miles and as natural as possible. We believe we are one of the last producers in the country to do this."
Suffolk guinea fowl
More recently the Mobbs have added the Suffolk Guinea Fowl its our product range, produced using the same heritage values, and this year it scooped the East Anglian Daily Times Food and Drink Awards Field to Fork Category. "We are really proud to have this aspect of our business recognised," says Chris.
The business - started in 1934 - celebrates its 85th anniversary this year. It was restructured in 2010, so has existed in its current format since then.
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"We were lucky that we had Chris's grandfather and father's business to build on, but when the business had to be restructured in 2010 we did face some significant challenges," admits Chris, who had farmed at the site all his life but was forced to re-think the business when the restructure took place.
"We like the satisfaction of producing a product from start to finish that brings so much pleasure to so many people on December 25. We also like the flexibility of running our own business and our office is the countryside - what more could you ask for?"
Turkey farmers 'a rare breed'
Turkey farmers are a rare breed, he says, so he would encourage more people to consider it.
The Mobbs hope they can continue to keep pace with changing consumer trends while still producing poultry with a strong provenance.
The business employs two other people all year around, but about 20 in December, when the farmhouse is filled with people.
The couple's most difficult challenge is keeping pace with the changing requirements of their customers and always ensuring they are ahead in a competitive market.
"We are lucky that we have more control than most farmers because we produce the food, grow the birds and sell to the final customer," says Chris.
They have already invested in making the business more sustainable through changes to packaging, energy production and by working in partnership with the Woodland Trust but the couple would like to take this even further in the future.