Alison Lawson & John Orford – Red Tractor Sugar Beet
Sugar is a vital ingredient in so many of the things we eat and drink every day, but so few people will realise that millions of tonnes are grown and produced in England every year.
The sugar grown in the country is produced from a beet which looks a bit like a large parsnip. It is usually planted in December or January as a little seed and then harvested by a huge machine the following winter.
Once it has been washed, sliced and processed, it’s transformed into the sweet, white granules that we are all familiar with. It takes about six sugar beet plants to produce 1kg of sugar.
Father and daughter partnership, Alison Lawson and John Orford, have been growing sugar beet on the family farm near Diss in Norfolk for more than 35 years. They grow it to supply British Sugar – the company which processes the raw material – before it ends up on the supermarket shelves inside Silver Spoon bags. Unlike imported cane sugar, which traditionally comes from countries in South America, Silver Spoon sugar is wholly produced using beet from British farms. And they are all Red Tractor assured.
“We’ve been Red Tractor assured for more than 20 years,” said John. “Everything we do is monitored, from the fertilisers we put on the ground to the way we use water and hygienic way we store the crop.”
Alison added: “Of course being part of the Red Tractor scheme gives us more work to do. It’s more paperwork and we have to be inspected to show how we run the farm, but it’s a small price to pay to promote a product which is grown just a few miles from your home.”
The journey from field to factory is very short. Typically a lorry load of beet will travel fewer than 20 miles to reach a British Sugar factory. The factory process a staggering eight million tonnes of sugar beet a year.
Simon Leeds from British Sugar said: “The Red Tractor scheme is really important to us. It gives us and ultimately the customer confidence that they are buying a product which has been sustainably produced and something that represents good agricultural practice.”