A North Yorkshire firm whose business has grown from the traditional farming of oil seed rape has scooped this year’s Yorkshire Family Business of the Year Award.
Wharfe Valley Farms beat off stiff competition to receive the public vote and win the People’s Choice Family Business of the Year Award for Yorkshire, part of the Family Business of the Year Awards organised by Family Business United.
The company is run by husband and wife team Geoffrey and Sallyann Kilby plus their son Stephen and began when the Kilbys, third generation farmers from Collingham, near Wetherby, added oil seed rape to their traditional crop rotation in the early 1980s.
The crop thrived and the family decided to venture into the production of high quality oil harnessing grants from the Department of Environment Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Yorkshire Forward to invest in a specially designed and purpose built press room on their farm and become the first in Yorkshire and only the third in the UK to produce this healthy cold pressed product.
Wharfe Valley Oils’ plain rapeseed oil was launched in 2006 and has been followed by a range of infused oils, salad dressings and mayonnaises sold online and at 250 independent retailers and country shows plus Yors, a brand specifically aimed at supermarkets.
The company’s diversification into other sectors came from using the husks, a byproduct of the rapeseed, as ecobriquettes for burning on stores, chimineas and open fires. While approaching a UK leading stove manufacturer about the husks, Stephen Kilby was asked about stove installation and from there the Wharfe Valley Stores, Wharfe Valley Hearths and Wharfe Valley Bathrooms divisions were born.
Wharfe Valley Farms Director Sallyann Kilby said the company, which today employs 20 people, was delighted to have won the Family Business of the Year Award for Yorkshire:
Ours is a family business through and through. It is born out of, and thrives on, a family’s commitment to each other and over the years has gone from strength to strength. At Wharfe Valley we pull together as a team and view everyone who works for us as part of our extended family.
We have built Wharfe Valley Farms Ltd together and although it is founded on traditional farming, have learned to be openminded and ready to diversify in order to make the most of the opportunities that come our way.
The Family Business of the Year Award is the icing on the cake and made even more special by the fact it was voted for by the general public.