March 11 2014 Latest news:
Michael Pollitt, Agricultural editor
Friday, February 14, 2014
A potato variety grown especially for customers has been a winning formula for Norfolk farmer Tim Briscoe.
He secured the most votes in a poll of Norfolk producers for the second annual awards organised by the East of England Co-op.
His Buxton Potato Company received twice as many votes as the other “Tim” in the county round of voting. His fellow producer, Tim Mack, of Surlingham, who makes Yare Valley oilseed rape, was also nominated for the award.
Mr Briscoe, of Dudwick Farms, Buxton, who started growing potatoes about a dozen years ago, has been determined to sell an increasing volume of his total annual production of about 3,000 tonnes through local outlets and shops.
He started supplying the East of England Co-op in 2009. His business has grown rapidly and he now sells his home-grown range in either 2.5kg or 12.5kg bags in a total of 16 of the co-op’s stores in the county. His sales has just kept growing year on year.
“I looked up our figures and compared to last year, we’re exactly 100pc on our tonnage into the Co-op, so they must like what’re doing,” said Mr Briscoe, who is also a former pig producer.
“Basically my drive is to try and get my product as locally as possibly. That’s why I’m trying to sell as much locally as I can. I’m also selling into the independent retailer, Roys of Wroxham, he added.
A couple of years ago, he decided to grow one variety for local sales, which would be tastier and also offer cooking flexibility in the home. Initially, he was growing Estima but enlisted the help of an informal taste panel to select a more distinct variety. “We were trying to find the potato that does all the jobs –that will mash, chip, and roast – so that the consumer can take one variety to do everything.
“We have an internal taste panel. We’re now tasting some varieties for selling in two years’ time. I think you need to keep re-inventing every couple of years yourself because customers do like something a bit little different. We trying them mashed, chipped or roasted and if they don’t, we won’t consider them.
“We buy a load of varieties and we sit down and taste them and see what we think. Then if it is generally popular, we will get on with that variety,” said Mr Briscoe.
“This is our first year with Marfona. Last year, we grew Estima but to find something we considered to be more tasty. The feedback we had with customers has been very positive.”
He also supplies potatoes in a 5kg bag as well to other outlets. Last year, he also developed a home-grown range of bakers and also salads for local sale.
With the benefit of a good potato store, which also has solar panels, he aims to store through until the early summer. “We can normally store through to June when we start seeing the earlies coming through.”
He enjoys growing potatoes. “Every single season throws up a different set of problems, doesn’t it. Sadly, I enjoy that challenge.
Mr Briscoe, who has two people on the arable side, has also taken on additional three full-time and eight seasonal staff on the potato packing, selling and distribution side. And same-day packing is also crucial too.