LJ fairburn Poultry

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The family egg business launched 70 years ago

Feb 14, 2021

On Valentine’s Day 1951, seventy years ago, farm worker Leslie James Fairburn (Jim) bought 150 chickens for £150 and started a small family poultry business.

Fast forward to 2021, and the very same business is now run by the third generation of Fairburns – his grandchildren Daniel, Sarah and Caroline. It has grown to become one of the largest egg packers and producers in the UK, supplying 17 million eggs each week to six high street retailers and two major meal kit firms.

Along the way Fairburns has won several mantelpieces' worth of awards, diversified into arable farming, taken over and expanded a large milling operation and launched market-first egg products. It has scooped plaudits from the London Stock Exchange, bought its own 22-strong lorry fleet and welcomed scores of fellow egg farmers to join its loyal producer network

Most importantly it is still based in beautiful Lincolnshire, on the edge of the Wolds, and family values still run through its core (or should that be yolk?).

Jim is remembered fondly by his grandchildren and here they describe their memories of growing up in rural Lincolnshire and their thoughts on how their dynamic business has grown...

Fairburns 70th anniversary baby stuart and jim fairburn

What do you remember about him?

“Our grandad was always full of wise advice and used to tell us 'look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'. He always said we should work hard to be successful in life and when we bought our first homes, he told us to go for the most we could afford as we would be pleased later. He was always incredibly careful with his money and after not having much as a child, he struggled to spend any as he got older. He and our dad, Stuart, worked very long hours and always reinvested in the business. He was a very strong minded person who didn't take a lot of nonsense and we had a lot of respect for him. Our children adored him and were fascinated when he used to get a robin to eat off his foot when he sat in his garden!”

Fairburns 70th anniversary Sarah & Caroline with Jasper & Carrot the lambs

Describe your earliest memories of growing up on the farms? 

“We all worked on the farm from a very young age. We used to egg collect at Farlesthorpe yard. At that time, all eggs were collected by hand onto trays on a trolley (there was no automated systems in place) and we could only reach the bottom two tiers. We would then carry the eggs across the yard to the egg store. We had a cockerel in the yard that used to chase us, which consequently made us run a bit faster and get the job done more quickly! We also used to have a drier for the chicken muck and play on the bags, which was really good fun, even though we used to stink afterwards! We spent a lot of time playing outdoors and had a really happy childhood."

Fairburns 70th anniversary stuart tractor 2

What did you enjoy the most about living in rural Lincolnshire?

“The freedom of having plenty of room to play and always feeling safe. Many of our school friends were from farming backgrounds too. We used to cycle to each other’s houses, horse ride, ride motorbikes in the fields, climb haystacks and go camping. We went to the beach a lot with our parents too and used to swim in the sea and then have tea in our beach hut.” 

Fairburns 70th anniversary Sarah Caroline Daniel and judy

What’s it like working with close members of your family?

“We are sure most family businesses will agree that sometimes it can be very challenging! But a unifying factor is we all have the same common foundation, that we care for the business and the people who work for us, and we want to be successful. Together we have taken risks, celebrated big successes and dealt with big problems along the way as well – it’s like a personal rollercoaster! We are very lucky to have staff around us that care for the business too.”

Fairburns 70th anniversary all three children

How do you feel about the growth of the business and how successful it’s become?

“We are pleased and incredibly proud of how far the business has come and feel grateful to our family, customers and employees who have helped us get there. Our dad Stuart was an early adopter of free range egg production and was really quite innovative in his way, and he expanded the business substantially before we took over.”

What’s your favourite way to cook eggs and/or recipe using eggs?

"I love eggs cooked all ways but probably have them mainly scrambled, where I cook on a low heat in a frying pan to make them creamier," – Sarah Hall.

"I like poached eggs – in a saucepan, a dash of vinegar and whisk the water fast then drop the egg in, turn off the heat and cook until the white is set and the yolk runny," – Caroline Fairburn-Wright.

"Scrambled eggs with avocado and smoked salmon on toast," – Daniel Fairburn.

If your children were thinking about getting involved in the family business, what advice would you give them?

“We would advise them to work elsewhere first to gain a skill that will benefit the family business, if and when they decide to hop on board. All our children – there are eight great-grandchildren in total – love farming and the farming life.”