Breckland’s concentration of potato-growing knowhow has made it the “farming equivalent of Canary Wharf”, according to one of three farms in the area to earn national industry recognition.
The region’s reputation was underlined by its impressive showing at the first National Potato Industry Awards in Harrogate where the Elveden Estate, near Thetford, won the Grower Award as well as being a finalist in the agronomy category.
Meanwhile Swaffham-based Heygate Farms carried off the Marketing Initiative title, while OW Wortley from Methwold was a runner-up in the Grower category.
Andrew Francis, farms director at Elveden, said the combined accolades showed how the area’s fertile soils had attracted a cluster of high-achieving businesses and expertise – in the same way that London’s financial district has.
“I would liken it to the farming equivalent of Canary Wharf, where you have got a concentration of all the bankers and traders, and it attracts a certain calibre of people who have to be right on top of their game,” he said.
“Breckland sands can support multiple root vegetables, not just potatoes, so you have a very dense area of very busy multi-spectral businesses, which will naturally migrate a particular skill set of people.
About 1,200 acres of potatoes are grown at the Elveden Estate for customers including McCain, McDonalds, major retailers and a crisp manufacturer – as well as for its own Garden of Elveden brand.
Mr Francis said the variation within the estate’s sandy soils was another reason that “attention to detail is something I hammer into my team all the time.”
Attention to detail is also the mantra at Heygate Farms, which has developed the Norfolk Peer and Norfolk Keepers brands for the potatoes it supplies to Tesco.