Richard Tulip, Sales and Marketing Director, Lintz Hall Farm

Lintz Hall Farm is the region's biggest and longest established egg producer. As the business celebrates its 60th anniversary, Jane Hall talks to sales and marketing director Richard Tulip - the fourth generation of the family to be involved in poultry farming - about a venture that really has taken wings

Richard, George and Stephen Tulip of Lintz Hall Farm
Richard, George and Stephen Tulip of Lintz Hall Farm

Dramatic career makeovers are normally associated with C-list celebrities, Hollywood actors past their sell-by date and pop stars.

Usually the art of reinvention involves trading up to something even more glamorous and headline grabbing.

But Richard Tulip went from being a notable DJ mixing with some of the biggest names in the business (Sasha, Paul Van Dyke, Tiesto and Dutch trance music legend Ferry Corsten among them) to poultry farming.

It’s enough to make the mistress of brand renewal, Madonna, do more than cry for Argentina.

Richard is more pragmatic, however. He sees his move six years ago from mixing international dance music to selling premium grade eggs as swapping one high-flying career for another. The 36-year-old is sales and marketing director at Lintz Hall Farm Ltd, which since launching 60 years ago has built itself into the North East’s biggest and longest-established egg producer.

The business, based at Burnopfield in County Durham, is home to nearly 300,000 laying hens whose eggs can be found selling under both the Lintz Hall Premier Quality and Derwent Valley brands in Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Nisa and Costcutter stores across the North East, Borders and South East Scotland as well as scores of independent outlets.

The firm which employs more than 40 staff is also the sole supplier of locally produced free range eggs to both Tesco and Asda across the region. The “large” pack of six Derwent Valley Free Range Eggs has the honour of achieving the highest unit rate of sale in Tesco nationally.

Richard runs the business alongside his brother Stephen, 40, who is production director. The siblings are the fourth generation of the Tulip family to be involved in poultry farming.

And having being born and brought up at Lintz Hall Farm, Richard says it was inevitable that he would one day be drawn back into the business started by his great-grandfather, George Tulip.

Music may have been a “massive part” of his life for 20 years, but in the end family ties counted for more.

“I organised my first event when I was 15 and DJ-ed full-time for nearly 20 years. It was in the early 90s when dance and rave music was the thing.

“I had always liked music and when I was at junior school they ran a music aptitude test as the county council were looking for one lad and lass to go and have music lessons.

“I came out top in the school – I don’t know how, but I must have had some musical aptitude – and I went on to learn the flute for a couple of years. But then I went to secondary school and decided it wasn’t ‘cool’ enough. Probably if I had learnt the guitar or drums I would have continued.

“Anyway, I started going to clubs when I was still far too young. It was the time of acid house and rave music and it was infectious. I would spend most of the night watching the DJs rather than dancing. It fascinated me.

“I am dyslexic and people say if you are down in one area you excel in something else. I found DJ-ing and mixing very easy to do.”

During the day Richard would work on the farm then spend his nights spinning discs. In 2000 he decided to immerse himself in music full-time. He ran the Friday “Promise” night at Foundation nightclub in Newcastle and brought some of the biggest DJ-ing names to the region.

He even DJ-ed in Moscow, made several guest appearance on Galaxy and BBC Radio 1 and was involved with some of the UK’s largest festivals such as Creamfields, Gatecrasher and Godskitchen.

Stephen, meanwhile, had opted to take a more conventional path and went to agricultural college with the intention of working on the farm.

Then in 2006 their father George (there has been a long line of George Tulips) announced he wanted to scale back his involvement. It was time for Richard to choose his true vocation and poultry farming won.

How hard a choice was it? “Music was my life but I was born and raised on the farm, had worked on it all of my life and had never envisaged leaving it behind forever.

“And anyway, I was buying a home with my partner, now my wife Jill, and I wanted a more secure income. So I came into the business full-time.”

It’s an undertaking that had its birth during the Second World War, when great-granddad George Tulip as part of the Dig for Britain initiative encouraged householders to keep chickens.

But it was his son, also called George (Richard and Stephen’s grandfather) who bought a small three-acre plot at Sunniside, Gateshead, in the early 1950s which he operated as a poultry farm selling eggs.

As the business expanded in 1963 he was able to buy Lintz Hall Farm where he moved with his wife and three children, who included another son called George and a daughter Margaret.

Over the next 40 years Margaret, George junior and his wife Maureen (Richard and Stephen’s parents) grew Lintz Hall Farm from 120 acres to 500 acres supporting 40,000 hens, 400 head of cattle and 12 staff.

By 2000 the farm’s turnover had reached £690,000. The first free range unit housing 16,000 birds was opened in 2004 and the farm also became part of the RSPCA Freedom Food Scheme and launched the Derwent Valley egg brand.

A second free range unit was added in 2005 and the whole farm became part of the British Lion Code.

But it is in the last handful of years that Lintz Hall has really begun to think big. Two more free range units opened in 2008 and a state-of-the-art egg packing centre followed.

Last year saw the acquisition of Sunny Hill Free Range Eggs in Belford, Northumberland (which also included the Oxenrig label), and their flock of 57,000 birds.

And just before Christmas the Tulips acquired another 100 acre farm complete with 12,000 bird free range unit just a mile from their base in the heart of the Derwent Valley.

Now, to top off their success, Lintz Hall has been nominated for the Poultry Farmer of the Year in the prestigious Farmers’ Weekly Awards. It is the first time the business has been in the running for the accolade and their selection has been made all the sweeter by the fact they were recommended for the agricultural gong by their peers in the poultry industry.

It is a mark of not just how highly regarded Lintz Hall Farm is, but that since 2004 more than £7m has been invested by the family in it.

Turnover has risen from around £1m in 2007 to nearly £7m and the future is looking very bright for a company that has its roots in the dark days of war and has managed to survive economic downturns and changes both in farming practices and consumer tastes.

Richard puts this achievement down to the fact that Lintz Hall – which produces, packs, markets and delivers its own eggs – has a dedicated and committed family at its core and that the business has retained control of its supply chain from producers to customers, giving them the ability to react quickly.

He and Stephen undoubtedly make a good team.

So what does the future hold for Lintz Hall Farm? “Going forward we want to consolidate what we have achieved recently while continuing to grow the business,” Richard says.

“Our brands and company reputation are very strong in the North East and we want to nurture this and grow the brand awareness.

“I would be very proud if when I retire people viewed Lintz Hall in the same light as other well-known North East businesses that are trusted, admired and known nationally.

“I just want people to know our company and products and be proud of a North East business doing well. It’s about flying the flag for the region and doing something we love.”

It’s all a long way from the scratching, sampling and mixing Richard once specialised in. Would he go back to DJing?

“I’ve never lost the passion for music and in fact I’ve been dipping my toe back in the water a bit of late. I’ve just done a Promise reunion event at Digital in Newcastle and I am putting on an intimate gig at the Den opposite Central Station on September 28 with two other well-known Newcastle-based DJs, Mark Armstrong and Anton Fielding. Funnily enough, doing the DJing set me in good stead for joining the Lintz Hall team. I’ve always got lots of ideas – some may say crazy ideas – buzzing around for moving the business on.”

It would seem Richard has successfully made the transition from the scrambled sounds of a DJ noise maker to being something of an egg head.

The Questionnaire

What car do you drive?
Nissan Navara

What’s your favourite restaurant?
Bambuddha Grove in Ibiza

Who or what makes you laugh?
My nephew, Jamie Tulip, who’s nearly two

What’s your favourite book?
Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, a wonderfully-illustrated children’s book

What was the last album you bought?
John Digweed – Live in Slovenia.

What’s your ideal job, other than the one you’ve got?
Resident DJ at Space nightclub in Ibiza

If you had a talking parrot, what’s the first thing you would teach it to say?
Yes, dear

What’s your greatest fear?
The dark

What’s the best piece of business advice you have ever received?
Work hard, follow your gut and turn the light on!

What’s your poison?
Stella and Chablis

What newspapers do you read, other than The Journal?
Poultry World magazine. It’s full of lovely birds!

How much was your first pay packet and what was it for?
Collecting eggs on a weekend for my pocket money. I can’t remember what I got paid, but it wasn’t much

How do you keep fit?
Mountain bike, swimming and the gym

What’s your most irritating habit?
Pausing Sky TV to discuss the programme. It drives the wife nuts.

What’s your biggest extravagance?
My music equipment and record collection

Which historical or fictional character do you most identify with or admire?
Danger Mouse – he’s fantastic!

Which four famous people would you most like to dine with?
Richard Branson, Carl Cox, Steve Jobs and Batman

How would you like to be remembered?
Fondly

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