Celebrity farmer opens food centre

A state-of-the-art food centre of excellence was launched by TV star Jimmy Doherty at Reaseheath College in Cheshire.

Real life pig farmer and BBC television personality Jimmy, who became a viewers’ favourite with Jimmy’s Farm and Jimmy’s Food Factory, launched the final phase of a £7.2 million investment into the food department at the specialist Nantwich based College.

The Duke of Westminster joined Jimmy to unveil a plaque to mark the start of the new build and also cut the first sod of turf at the Nantwich based College.

A new Food Centre of Excellence is to be built on campus, offering factory-standard facilities which will be used by North West businesses for new product development and trials. The specialist equipment, which will be used to train students, will allow the manufacture of all foods including dairy products, bakery and butchery.

Twenty-first century dairy processing halls – the first phase of the new build – were opened at the college last month. The capital investment is supported by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), the Skills Funding Agency and through industry investment.

Jimmy said:

"We desperately need energetic, motivated new blood coming into agriculture if we are to keep up with the increasing demand for food in the face of a growing population. Britain is full of opportunities for food producers. Our farmers are world beaters.

I am so excited to be here today. The opening of a food hall represents so much hard work from everyone involved. This shows a commitment to Britain’s farming industry, creating real opportunity. No doubt this College will continue to be a fertile seed bed of future talent.

I do visit lots of Colleges, but Reaseheath stands out.

There’s a uniqueness here – students studying pig production can witness the whole process here. The college gives students the opportunity to follow the whole food journey from primary production right through to the finished product.

For instance, you can watch a cow being milked and then see all the processes that the milk goes through to make yoghurt."

The Duke of Westminster, who is Patron of food champion Made In Cheshire, is a major dairy producer himself with more than 1500 cows which produce more than 20 million litres of milk annually.

The Duke added:

"As a producer myself, I know that the support Reaseheath gives the dairy industry and also the people they teach is invaluable to Cheshire and the UK as a whole. This investment of £7.2 million is creating a Food Centre of Excellence here as well as a 21st century dairy processing hall, which is at the very centre of the dairy processing industry."

Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David commented:

"The world and our communities are facing a great challenge. The population is predicted to grow to eight billion by 2050 with a doubling in food requirements without any increase in land. Investment in research, technology and specialist staff will need to continue to make sure science can help to meet the need for more food. Reaseheath College will continue to support the food and low carbon agenda by working at the forefront of knowledge transfer, research and technological advancement."

David Hunter, Head of Rural Development at NWDA, said:

"Often the rural sector finds it difficult to access resources which can develop their businesses so it is excellent to see the great progress being made at Reaseheath. The centre will provide real opportunities for development of skills and innovation in the food and drink industry, which is vital for the sector to grow and for sustainable rural regeneration to take place."