Reporter Laura Connor visits animal feed company W E Jameson and Son Ltd in Masham, a family business whose roots stretch back more than eight decades yet looks firmly to the future as it diversifies and expands to meet the changing demands of the market.
More than 80 years ago, a man named Eddie Jameson travelled around North Yorkshire on his motorbike in an effort to supply as much animal feed as possible to local farms.
And now the third generation of Eddie’s family is involved in running the company that traces its roots back to those humble origins – W E Jameson and Son Ltd – which not only remains a distributor to local farmers but also sends its nutritional animal supplies to farms and small holdings as far afield as Lancashire, County Durham and West Cumbria.
“The family orientation will always be part of the business,” managing director and Eddie’s grandson Graham Jameson tells the Gazette in his office on the Foxholme Lane site.
The 42-year-old still works alongside his father and company chairman Malcolm, uncle and production manager Robert, and cousin and production supervisor Christopher.
Upon graduating from Harper Adams Agricultural College in 1993, Graham went straight back into the family business – taking over as Jameson managing director when his father stepped down in 2006.
“I spent the first ten years farm calling, selling to our customers and developing business,” he says.
“I then made the transition to managing the company.”
Graham describes how the company is still expanding, from its humble “one man and his bike” beginnings to a five-acre site comprising a compound and blend feed mill, fertiliser store, grain drying and storage facility, liquid molasses handling and country store.
He says the pivotal moment in the business’ expansion came in the late 1960s when the company invested in an animal feed mill.
And although Graham admits agriculture has faced some “major changes” since the Jameson brand was born, he says the company has adapted and modernised to meet new demands.
“We are very farmer focused,” he says. “The biggest challenge to the industry is that people have had to work harder and harder to make farming pay.”
With their strong relationship with farmers, a budding new shop and website and expansion into supplying nutritional advice, W E Jameson has certainly adapted to make farming pay.
“We have invested in a new shop and website, and employed an in-house nutritionist,” says Graham.
Emphasising the importance of animal nutrition to the advancement of Jameson, Graham describes the process of feeding “like a factory in a way, but it’s just got an animal in the middle”.
“Our feed mill takes different types of ingredients broken up and puts them back together, making them tailored to what the animal specifically needs,” explains Graham.
But bespoke animal advice and branching into the animal health industry are not the only exciting advancements for W E Jameson.
The site opened its first country store last year and sells everything from Hunter wellies and horse blankets to animal castration kits.
“The move into retail worked brilliantly. It was a fairly serious investment but it’s paid off,” says Graham.
The company employs three staff members in the shop, which Graham says helped the company “complete the whole package”.
The move into retail also allows the company to sell food for domestic animals for the first time, although Jameson only manufacture feed for their traditional farm and small holding market.
Now Graham hopes to keep the company’s expansion projects on the current site, saying their five acres is more than enough ground needed for any flourishing project ideas.
“We have done a lot of expanding on the outside and we are now concentrating on the inside,” he says.
Graham highlights how marketing the new country shop has become a priority, with new signage being placed around the market town to promote the venture.
“People need to be able to go somewhere local to collect their feed and being on people’s doorstep is essential.”
And Graham says as well as providing somewhere for farmers to gather their feed, the shops can even “get kids kitted out for the winter” with its breadth of supplies.
But despite adapting to changes in the agricultural industry and continuing to expand with entrepreneurial new projects, ultimately Jameson has stayed firmly where it started – with family, in Masham.
In addition to Jameson “providing jobs for people in Masham”, Graham says he sees the farming industry as unique in being all about family business.
“It’s one of the only surviving family industries,” he smiles.