Business management

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, founder of The Black Farmer

The founder of award-winning food brand The Black Farmer talks about making a friend of uncertainty and putting inclusivity at the top of the corporate agenda.

Thirty years later, after a stint in the army, a turn as producer-director of the BBC’s Food & Drink programme, and a career in marketing, Emmanuel-Jones moved to Devon and bought the farm he had dreamed of. It was here that he launched his company, The Black Farmer, inspired by a love and support of British farmers and a recognition of the resolute lack of rural diversity in Britain.  

 “At the time I bought the farm there were no Black people at all really in rural Britain, no Black farmers. I saw this opportunity to create a brand, and to be the pathfinder in creating something that other people from the [ethnically diverse] community felt they could follow. I wanted it to represent modern Britain.”

Hard work rewarded

Emmanuel-Jones was awarded an MBE for services to British Farming in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List, and his products include award-winning sausages, chicken, ham and sauces, all of which are gluten-free to cater to the growing community of those with coeliac disease.

He has also set up a Black Farmer Scholarship scheme to give ethnic minorities from inner-city communities the opportunity to have the experience of living and working in a rural community, an initiative that was made into a Channel 4 TV series, Young Black Farmers. His advice for would-be business owners is simple: don’t rely on certainty.

“The more data, the more research there seems to be, the more people think that should be their basis for making decisions. If corona has taught us anything, it’s that certainty doesn’t exist. My philosophy is that you’ve got to make a friend of uncertainty – because as an entrepreneur, you’re challenging the status quo, you’re challenging the way things have always been done.”

Look around you. If all you’re seeing is a reflection of yourself, you’re on the route to disaster. You should be encouraging newness. You should be encouraging difference

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
Founder, The Black Farmer

In spite of his success, Emmanuel-Jones notes that he is still one of the only commercial Black farmers in Britain and highlights the positive force that can come from greater diversity.

“Nature says that the best way you can get strength is through diversity. It’s about letting in things that are different. I would say to all the organisations out there – look around you. If all you’re seeing is a reflection of yourself, you’re on the route to disaster. You should be encouraging newness. You should be encouraging difference.”  

Emmanuel-Jones says that he hopes the awareness generated from recent activity in the Black Lives Matter movement means this year’s Black History Month will be celebrated in a way it never has been before.

“Black History Month isn’t just a box-ticking exercise. I hope it really is the start of things to come. That we actually consciously say, from now on we are going to really consider inclusivity, rather than it being at the bottom of people’s agenda.”

For his part, Emmanuel-Jones will be marking Black History Month by launching two new sausages inspired by the flavours of the Caribbean, with packaging featuring the faces of Black British heroes Mary Seacole, the famous Crimean War nurse, and Second World War Sergeant Lincoln Orville Lynch. The sausages will be stocked in major UK supermarkets – and for every pack sold, a donation will go to charities the Mary Seacole Trust and the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton.

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