Woldmarsh was formed in 1961 around Henry Sharpley’s kitchen table.
Louth Trading Group had been running for a short time and discussions took place with Beelsby Viners to investigate whether the two groups could work together and justify employing a full time secretary. Originally both groups had been set up to finance static viners to produce peas for Bird’s Eye. As the first tractor-drawn Viners came along the companies looked to develop as trading operations.
This was the time when the National Farmers Union was very much promoting co-operation amongst farmers and the setting up of buying and marketing groups to strengthen individual farmer’s negotiating position. Most of the successful co-operatives that are still trading were formed between 1959 and 1961.
Getting agreement for the two groups to join together was not straightforward. At an early stage it was agreed that the trading company should act as a principle in purchasing to enable it to guarantee payment to suppliers and thus improve its position. Whilst all those involved had a common purpose, to save money, they were not happy to guarantee each other’s debt.
A great strength of Woldmarsh came out of these discussions as it was felt that the company would operate centrally for purchasing. Further to this, each group elects a Director to represent them on the board. It was also felt that no group of Directors should become too powerful and that they would serve a 3-year term only.
Once an agreement and name had been reached, John Vickers joined from the local NFU as manager and the first office was in Newmarket, Louth.
From 1961 to 1962 the membership expanded joining egg trading and packing groups which meant other groups had to be formed. At this stage there were concerns over the rules of the company not being as co-operative minded as they would have liked.
The Directors were very hands on, inviting new suppliers to the Board meetings and agreeing terms for the coming year with them. Initially the trade wanted Woldmarsh to fail but in the end worked around them wherever possible.