Linking crop nutrition to production and consumption
There is no better way to help consumers understand the science and practicality of producing quality food crops than to take them into fields and show them farming in action. Three people involved in the supply of advice and fertilizer to UK farmers recently hosted a visit to a farm by a very interested group of consumers to show them the reality of commercial salad farming in the UK.
Veteran interest in food crops
The group was of ex-servicemen, known as the Sefton Veterans, who admitted that they had very little knowledge of contemporary salad production before the visit to the lettuce farm in the north west of England. The host farmers, Chris and Kathryn Wright of Wright Farm Produce, were helped with the tour by Scott Garnett from ICL Fertilizers, Ian Moseley from fertilizer suppliers Origin, and David Bolshaw from Procam Agronomy.
Growing a business as well as crops
Balanced fertilization has meant that the farm has built a reputation for very high-quality salad crops such as lettuce and celery - and it has also built a thriving business. Starting with only two acres of lettuce and celery in 1965 the farm has expanded to more than 500 acres today.
The visitors were shown how each plant starts as a seedling growing in one of the farm’s cool ventilated greenhouses. Nutrition at this stage is crucial for robust root and shoot development. Transferred out to the growing fields in the rich peat soil typical for this area, crop nutrition is again a key factor.
Waste not want not
The visiting veterans were surprised to learn about the very rigorous specifications for the crops such as lettuce to enter the supply chain to consumers. As people of senior years, who can remember times of food shortages, seeing slightly undersized or underweight lettuces left in the fields seemed wasteful. But learning how balanced nutrition, with Polysulphate and its prolonged release of nutrients throughout the growing season, assures more uniform quality helped the visitors to make the link between best use of fertilizer and sustainable food supplies.
Packing a lot in to one visit
The final stop on the farm tour was in the pack-house. All picked produce is vacuum-cooled within two hours of harvest and packed and labelled with the information each retailer requires.
As the day’s harvest of Iceberg and Little Gem lettuce, Chinese cabbage and celery left through the farm gates on their journey to the supermarket distribution centers, ready to be delivered all over the UK, the veteran group were left with the lasting impression that it takes dedication, precision and attention to every detail to be a successful farm business.
(With thanks to Amy Jane Moor for supplying the images of the event)