UFU farm diversification winner – Chris Wilson

Saturday, 2 January, 2021

Founder of farm diversification business Moo To You Chris Wilson, is the winner of the first ever Ulster Farmers’ Union farm diversification competition.

I grew up in Gilnahirk but home for me now is Streamvale Farm. I worked as a fertiliser sales rep for several years after graduating from university. Following on from this I became involved in my wife’s family business Streamvale Open Farm.

Farming roots

Even though I grew up in Belfast my grandfather farmed in Dromara. He was mainly a sheep farmer but a shrewd businessman who dealt in livestock all his life. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be involved in the farming industry, in the business side of things.

Starting something new

Our family business Streamvale Farm is both a dairy farm and a visitor attraction. I have been involved in the business for the past five years. My aim was to improve the visitor experience and increase visitor numbers to the farm which we have been successful in doing. That is until coronavirus (COIVD-19) struck and all of a sudden, all plans were put on hold!

I knew I had to diversify quickly and so, Moo to You was born. I borrowed my brother in-law’s van and started selling milk, butter and cheese online. I continued to add more products, vans and built up a team to help. We now have a strong fleet on the road covering many parts of Northern Ireland each week. I was keen to focus on local farmers and suppliers and kept this at the core of Moo to You. We now source and deliver fruit and veg, fish, extensive bakery and butchery ranges as well as many artisan products and of course dairy.

Many personal characteristics that I developed from agriculture helped me to create and grow Moo to You. I learnt a lot from agri-tourism in particular. Through this industry I have learnt how to market to families. Instead of selling tickets to events at the farm I sold fresh food. Agriculture in general has taught me that you must work very hard to make something a success.

My biggest lesson is that to diversify you need to use the skills you already have and adapt them to suit another business. I would never diversify into something I know nothing about. 

I have enjoyed meeting many farmers and local suppliers the most. Without a doubt we have some of the best farmers and food in the world. I have loved meeting all of them and showcasing their produce. I am new to the food industry and have a lot to learn but I have enjoyed the challenge of fresh food delivery so far!

My hope is that Moo to You is not just a COVID-19 business. I want to grow the number of weekly deliveries and hit an ambitious target. Who knows, maybe even delivering to Dublin some day!

Challenges along the way

My biggest challenge has been making sure that I have not taken my eye off the ball in relation to the original business. When you start a new venture, you need to put every ounce of energy and thought into it. When we got the farm open to the public again, I needed to divide my time and thoughts between the two. This is something I need to continually work on, however having a fantastic team helps!

I think we have built the strong foundations of a very scalable business. There are so many great local suppliers, my job is to simply market and deliver their food. We have grown quickly with four to six vans on the road most days and over 150 available products. We are a very small fish in a large pond, but we think we can offer something better than the large supermarkets.

Stand out achievements

My son Jake being born in the middle of the craziness of both COVID-19 and Moo To You, is my biggest achievement. My wife Helen has been very supportive through this challenging journey. Building a business from scratch and scaling it to not only support my original staff at Streamvale but also creating new jobs in the process, has been a standout for me.

Diversifying advice

The key is to only go into an industry that you are interested in and that you think your current skills can be transferred to. There are many possible farm diversification projects I would be hopeless at because my skills wouldn’t suit what is needed!

Find out more

On our website (www.mootoyou.co.uk), you can order easily online and we will drop it off at your door. Or call the office if you would like to chat about products, I always love to explore new products and ideas.

Pictured: Helen, baby Jake and Chris.