Having run a successful dairy farm since the 1970s, Alan Wilson and wife Jenny had been supplying local supermarkets with their produce, but the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns inspired them to diversify the business and trial a delivery service known as Island Dairies.
Following the initial success of this trial the Wilsons, whose three children also work in the business, upped their offering and now deliver within a 10-mile radius of their family farm. The decision was then taken to install a bottling plant to accommodate increased production and to speed up operations.
Plans are also afoot to introduce a re-useable bottling service to enhance the green credentials of the farm. Alan Wilson explained that what was an initial, short-term response to the pandemic, has actually opened up new doors for the business.
“During those first few weeks of lockdown back in March 2020, we sat down as a family and discussed what we could do to support our friends and neighbours. We knew people were anxious about heading out to supermarkets so providing a delivery service seemed like a natural solution.
“Quite quickly it emerged that there was demand for this to be a year-round service and so we put our heads together once again to figure out how we make this a permanent offering and from there Island Dairies was born.
“Thanks to the support we received from Ulster Bank and Lombard, we have been able to purchase state of the art facilities and upgrade our existing equipment to really ramp up our production times.
“Having our children so involved in all aspects of the business brings us a fresh set of eyes and they are always looking for the next opportunity to grow and expand what we can offer. We’re in the midst of installing a reusable bottling plant which will help us to improve our green credentials; something we know is very important to today’s consumer.”
Cormac McKervey, Senior Agriculture Manager with Ulster Bank said the Wilson Family Farm was a great example of how farmers right across Northern Ireland are pivoting and adapting in line with ever-evolving trends.
“We’re very pleased to have been able to support the Wilsons alongside our colleagues in Lombard, as they sought to grow and adapt their business. More and more, we are seeing this kind of innovative, entrepreneurial attitude from our farming customers and it is this drive which will ensure our local agriculture sector continues to thrive, even in these challenging times.
“I would encourage any farmers out there who have an idea or want to talk about how they can diversify their business to get in touch with our teams and find out about the support we can offer.”