We sit down and chat to Lucy Taylor, manager at Vine House Farm. They are an SME that have managed to be nominated along with Marks and Spencer, Royal Mail and British Gas at the Business Charity Awards 2016.
Please tell us a bit of background of your business, what it is, who you are and what you do.
It all started back in 1982 when my father, Nicholas, started to record all the birds he saw and heard on the farm – something he has done every year since. By 1992 he realised there had been a big drop in numbers so he started to implement ideas to stop their decline. One of his actions was to feed birds on a large scale in his farm yards. The results were spectacular, so he had an open day for people to come and see the birds that were feeding. Two or three people asked him if he could sell them some bird seed, so he duly obliged.
This snowballed the following year as more people asked him to sell them bird food and so, largely by accident, the bird food business started. Momentum has grown over the years and Vine House Farm now grows over 400 acres of bird food.
Nicholas has continued his research into farmland birds, and through this has been able to assess what is needed to enhance our farm, the activities of the local drainage board and other farms in the area. Through his work on farmland birds and conservation, he was awarded the MBE in 2006.
At Vine House Farm we have a clear vision which still holds true today; farming in a way that encourages wildlife and the wide range of habitats it needs. Our aspirations have always been to contribute to the preservation of wildlife through the growth of various wild bird foods and our support of local charities, and now this is being recognised on a national level at the Business Charity Awards.
The Business Charity Awards 2016 will be hosted on Wednesday 20 April as part of Fundraising Week, which looks to reward all the amazing charity work that businesses across Great Britain have been involved with. Vine House Farm are just one of three small businesses that have been nominated, so this represents a real achievement for us.
How do you feel being involved with charities/The Wildlife Trusts has affected your company profile?
The Wildlife Trusts is a recognised national charity with a similar ethos to us; protecting wildlife and the natural habitats it needs to thrive. Our partnership has certainly increased the profile of the company, especially as the charity’s values are so closely aligned with ours. We are a small family business with big ambitions; our donations of over £1 million to The Wildlife Trusts have helped 30,000 households to benefit from inviting nature into their gardens.
Do you think being involved with a charity is something more companies should be doing and why?
Yes. As a nation we spend too much time just concerned with ourselves – whether this is in a business environment or personal environment. This means that wildlife in particular is getting pushed to one side. I think our substantial donation to The Wildlife Trusts shows just how much can be done. If as a small family business we can donate £1 million to a charity, then surely the big multinationals can be doing more than they currently are – especially environmental organisations which often get overlooked.
You don’t need to be a large business to make a significant impact to a worthy cause, as we have shown and are proud to have been recognised for with a Business Charity Award nomination.
What are your future plans for your involvment with charities? Any plans to work with any new charities?
We do support several other smaller wildlife charities, such as Countryside Restoration Trust, Plant Life and Butterfly Conservation, but on a smaller scale than with The Wildlife Trusts. We are committed to supporting local and national wildlife organisations, as we are all working towards a common goal of ensuring Britain’s wildlife can thrive.
Finally, do you have an advice to anyone reading who runs a business looking to start a partnership with a charity?
Yes, like with anything these partnerships and relationships work best if it is something close to your heart, that motivates you for all the right reasons. It is also not all about the money. Just being associated with a charity can help raise your business profile, and there are activities you can do to provide support that might not include a monetary donation. Donating time, resources, space or products to a charity can make just as significant a difference as a cash donation. It may also help to motivate your staff and team if they know what they are doing can help a charity.