Richard Mowbray – Red Tractor Sprouts Farmer
If you haven’t tried a sprout recently, you might be surprised at how they taste.
Modern varieties have been developed to be sweeter – a far cry from the bitter, soggy Christmas vegetable which some people love to hate.
Every December Richard Mowbray, commercial director at TH Clements, is responsible for ensuring that one million sprouts a day are harvested from the fields of Lincolnshire, graded, packed and dispatched to major retailers.
“They taste better than they used to and they’re generally better quality too,” he said.
“During the two weeks at Christmas orders go up ten-fold. We’re looking to harvest about 200 tonnes a day using 17 machines operating around the clock.”
Plants are put in the ground in the spring in a precise fashion using technology to ensure they grow in straight lines.
This is important because when the crop is ready, harvesting machines drive up and down the field cutting the sprout stalks at the bottom. Staff manually push them through a set of blades which cut off the individual sprouts and store them in a hopper.
Hoppers tip in to crates which are then transferred to the packing station where anything that’s too small or not up to standard is graded out.
“They will usually be on the supermarket shelves within 48 hours,” Richard said.
Like thousands of farmers who grow vegetables in the UK, TH Clements is Red Tractor assured, meaning that a set of farm standards dictate how they grow the crop.
Records have to be kept of any crop protection products that have been used, staff in the business have to be fully trained and the end product has to be safe, traceable and produced in a way that minimises the impact on the environment.
Independent assessors regularly visit the farm and packing centre to ensure that the standards are being adhered to.
“We have been operating to Red Tractor standards for years,” Richard said.
“It’s about doing what’s right for the crop and traceability. All our sprouts are traceable back to the field and even the gang that harvested them.”
Food that has been produced to this standard is easily identifiable. Shoppers just need to look for the Red Tractor logo on the pack.