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Rural Staffordshire business tastes early success after receiving business grant backing

Lydia Ainger

A rural Staffordshire business which has been backed by a county council-led funding initiative is thriving just weeks after opening its doors.

Church Farm Tearooms and Children’s Farm in Anslow near Burton was opened last month by Lydia Ainger. Lydia has recently returned to Staffordshire to start her business after studying in Sheffield and London.

She has brought together her passions – baking, animals and the countryside – to establish Church Farm. In order to get her business up and running, Lydia applied for a grant from the Staffordshire LEADER programme. The business has already created four full-time jobs.

LEADER aims to support projects which will create jobs or help rural businesses grow; with grants available to support farm productivity, micro and small enterprise, farm diversification, tourism, rural services, heritage and forestry schemes.

The funding is administered by the county council from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Grants of between £2,500 and £100,000 have been available to businesses with ambitious plans to stimulate the rural economy.

Lydia said: “After looking for the right location we eventually found our ideal premises and bought it two years ago.

“We have completely renovated the barn, which involved completely digging up the floor up and repairing the roof and walls, which had completely gone.  We basically had to rebuild the barn and then insulate it. Outside we have done all the landscaping and renovated the paddocks to make sure it is safe for the animals and our visitors.

“We have combined my love for animals and baking here at Church Farm. It’s been going really well and we can’t believe how busy it’s been already. We’ve been flabbergasted by the amount of people we’ve had through the door. The LEADER funding has certainly been a great support in enabling us to get where we are in such as short space of time.”

Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: “It is great to see Lydia’s business doing so well already having only launched last month. It is testament to her hard work and determination. We are pleased that through the LEADER programme the business has got off to a flying start and will no doubt go from strength to strength.

“LEADER has made a real difference to small businesses across the county which play a vital part in rural communities and our ongoing economic growth. We now want to make sure the remaining money is fully utilised. People can find out more by visiting the programme website or contacting a member of the team.”

Other approved LEADER schemes have included a new equestrian centre, a fledgling company producing cured meats, a restaurant’s fine dining kitchen, a new machine to process feed and bedding into products for the equestrian and pet industry and a conversion of farmyard buildings to create four-star self-catering accommodation.

LEADER is part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.