About Us

The Plan

Rural Kent covers a surface area of approximately 925,000 acres including forestry and woodland. Roughly one-third is of the farmable land is classified as Grade 1 or 2 in terms of productive capacity and the vast majority of the remainder is classified as Grade 3.

Rural PLC (Kent) treats Kent’s agricultural and horticultural sector as a single business entity. The total assets for this sector in Kent equate approximately £5.4bn and the aggregated value of the sector’s turnover in Kent, at approximately £500m, would rank the sector well into the top of the FTSE 100 companies.

Kent has massive potential to perform in taking the industry forward, with favourable climate, a range of productive soils, accessibility into the Continent as well as the UK and a wealth of industry expertise.  We have the world’s leading horticultural research establishment at East Malling, the corridor of knowledge-based industry running through North Kent; three universities and Hadlow College, a specialist leading land-based college and commercial specialist.  The county is identified as one of three food clusters within the UK and is already home to almost 500 food-related companies employing 18,000 people.

Rural PLC (Kent) vouches to create a voice and a platform for Kent’s food and farming sectors which have both the strength and scale to deliver more in economic and social terms.  Comprising leading figures in farming and the county’s rural and business community, Rural PLC (Kent) was launched in 2011 and lobbies for a more conducive regulatory environment, investment in skills, research and development and assistance in farm diversification.  Through working together, the ambition is to capitalise on opportunities for business growth and reassert Kent’s national reputation as the ‘Garden of England’.

The food chain needs to be broken…

it is vitally important to rebrand how we present our food sector. For years it has been called the ‘Food Chain’ or the ‘Supply Chain’. Yes, all of the steps from farm to fork and beyond are connected but without the farmer the rest of the chain doesn’t exist. In addition to this we have the fact that the end of the chain exerts far more influence than the beginning of the chain.

UK farmers still provide 60% of the food consumed in the UK. The reality is, without a change of mindset, the river will start to run dry.

A growing customer base…

The population growth forecasts, coupled with the fact that global diets are becoming more westernised, means a lot more demand for food.  The reality is that there are already too many undernourished people in the world and poor harvests result in massive increases in food commodity prices.

An investor’s dream…

The investment case is there for farming.

  • A basic human need that will always be in demand.
  • A growing customer base with an increasing per capita requirement.

Rural PLC (Kent) is about creating a voice and a platform for Kent’s food and farming sector.

We aim to expand the types of investment available to the rural sector and pull far more inward investment into the Rural PLC (Kent) upstream sectors including farming, R&D and human resources. Low returns on capital are symptomatic of low levels of investment in the upstream sectors There are currently too few types of investor and ranges of financing available to the rural sector in Kent. Given that food is a basic necessity with a growing customer base Rural PLC (Kent) should be an investor’s dream and not an investor’s last resort.

Our Aims

Food production plays a crucial role in Kent’s economy.The Kent food chain is worth £2.6 billion per annum and accounts for 15% of Kent’s workforce. Agriculture and horticulture represent the lynch pins of this sector.

Through this initiative, we aim to :

  • Demonstrate the true value of the rural sector in Kent to all.
  • Increase awareness of the sector and related opportunities.
  • Drive investors and investment into the sector with strong returns.
  • Balance the return on capital currently being achieved by the downstream retailers with the upstream food producers.

In our view there is a fundamental issue with both the quality and quantity of statistics that describe the rural

sector. This is a sector which has a huge multiplier effect and value exists right along the food stream.  The value of the rural sector can be demonstrated in its capital, human, financial and resources, and its ability to respond to challenge.

Farming is the source of an industry that supports 1 in 7 UK jobs. In Kent this is 85,000 jobs and £2.6 billion of GVA.

Kent already has landmark institutions such as East Malling Research, Hadlow College and the University of Greenwich.

Rural PLC (Kent) aims to not only grow the ‘Garden of England’ but to grow everything that drives food production from R&D though to skills through to mechanical engineering.

We want Kent to be the food hub of the UK and in time recognised as the global food hub. Investment and the recognition of our farmers’ importance in the food chain will help us build our return on capital. A return on capital of 2% for Kent’s farming sector compares to a return on capital of 11% for Sainsbury’s. We should not accept that there should be any difference in our return on capital versus that of our downstream peers.

The Board of Directors

Formed of four individuals, each of whom has a breadth of experience in Kent’s farming, rural business and finance community, the Board of Rural PLC (Kent) is committed to championing the county’s food sector, capitalising on opportunities for business growth and changing the perception of Kent’s rural sector.

Mike Bax

Chairman

Mike Bax qualified as a Land Agent and Agricultural Valuer in the late 1970’s and has been senior partner in his own rural property practice, the BTF Partnership since 1988. Mike farms 240 acres in the Weald, now devoted to environmental stewardship and the management of semi- natural ancient woodland. He is involved with a variety of rural interest groups in the County.

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor

Finance and Human Capital Director

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor attended Keele University where he read Law and Economics, and on leaving obtained a position as auditor within a top London firm in 1997. He quickly rose to become Director of Audit. He joined Hadlow College in 2002 to design and implement a fiscal recovery, was appointed to the Senior Management Team and then became Director of Finance and Resources in 2004.  Mark has been instrumental in building Hadlow College into a regional and national brand for land-based education and services to industry.  Hadlow College is rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Charles Tassell

Farming and Environment Director

Charles is Chairman of ‘Why Farming Matters in Kent’, an ex-NFU Chairman and closely involved in promoting farming and rural issues locally and nationally.

George Jessel

Resources Director

Born in Kent George had a Short Service Commission with 15/19th Hussars. He is a partner in fully diversified 1,200-acre family farm. Immediate Past Chairman, Kent County Agricultural Society, Chairman Trustees Wye Agricultural Museum. Past Chairman Kent CLA and NFU member. He is a Kent Ambassador and is a Kent Deputy Lieutentant for the Ashford Area.