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Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future: How Laura Wilcock Balances Tradition and Innovation

Milling is in the blood for Laura Wilcock of Ripon Select Foods. She tells us of her long family tradition in the industry – and how she’s bringing a modern approach to the demands of the job.

Laura Wilcock admits there was “a degree of inevitability” about ending up working in the milling industry.

But there’s also more than a degree of understatement about her comments. In fact, her family have been millers since 1849 – while she is the eight generation of her family to work in the manufacture of flour and rusk.

“My grandparents started Ripon Select Foods Ltd in 1974 and I have been coming to the factory and mill since I was a little girl,” Laura says. “Many school holidays were spent testing the products and answering the telephones!”

Laura’s been at the family firm for nearly 12 years, starting as a trainee manager, then production manager, and now administration manager. But this was after graduating with a Masters degree in Chemistry from Edinburgh University, which involved a year working for Syngenta, a leading science-based Agtech company, after which she gained a First Class post graduate Master’s degree in Accounting and Finance.

Her role at Ripon is wide-ranging, encompassing managing the IT, health and safety, and human resources departments.

“I also manage legislative and compliance issues, and more recently I have been given the responsibility of developing our ESG strategy and report to the board of directors,” she says.

“On a day-to-day basis I’m involved with budgeting and variance analysis, producing and analysing company costings, developing, implementing and reviewing policies and procedures. I work closely with the joint managing director and company secretary on payroll, pension and insurance matters.”

With such a busy work timetable, time for hobbies and out-of-office interest would appear limited – but Laura is determined to make time for her two young children and a number of pets – chickens, guinea pigs and even a new puppy!

“I enjoy baking, trying to grow my own vegetables and more lately sewing. I used to play hockey but after a bad knee injury I had to retire. Now I like to go running which gives me some time to myself. A favourite hobby is helping my father show his Limousin Cattle at the Great Yorkshire Show, and my daughter is excited to give this a go this summer with a calf at a local agricultural show.”

Milling is clearly an industry she loves, and Laura says she’s unlikely to move to another company. But if she does have a gripe, it’s the representation of women in the industry.

“When I started at RSF, I was encouraged to join Young Millers, now known as The Development Group, and I was surprised at how few women were present,” she says.

“From choosing a degree course at university that was also dominated by men, I obviously do not let this stop me from achieving and doing what I want to do. I would definitely recommend the milling industry as a career. It has a very wide variety of career choices that give a great opportunity for anyone to join and constantly learn new skills.”


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