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Champion Norfolk potato grower explores organic options

PUBLISHED: 10:05 19 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:35 19 July 2019

Thomas Love, president of Stalham Farmers? Club, welcomed more than 100 farmers for a tour of Walcott Farms. Picture: James Taylor, NFU East Norfolk.

Thomas Love, president of Stalham Farmers? Club, welcomed more than 100 farmers for a tour of Walcott Farms. Picture: James Taylor, NFU East Norfolk.

James Taylor, NFU East Norfolk

Champion Norfolk potato grower Thomas Love is dipping a toe into organic production.

Thomas Love, president of Stalham Farmers’ Club, welcomed more than 100 farmers for a tour of Walcott Farms. Picture: James Taylor, NFU East NorfolkThomas Love, president of Stalham Farmers’ Club, welcomed more than 100 farmers for a tour of Walcott Farms. Picture: James Taylor, NFU East Norfolk

On a tour of the family's 600-hectare farm at Walcott, Mr Love said 12ha of fertile silty loam will be converted over the next two years to grow baby leaf salads for Martham-based East Coast Growers.

It is expected that the first organic crop would be harvested in 2021 after the field had been in ryegrass for 18 months.

Mr Love, president of Stalham Farmers' Club, welcomed about 100 club members to Walcott Farms as well as a large number from the East Norfolk branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU).

Three tractors and trailers took the party around the farm as Mr Love said that the potato enterprise, extending to some 320ha, was central to the business.

Growing some 14,000 tonnes of processing varieties a year, mainly for McCain's, Birds Eye and Bartlett, he said the availability of water for irrigation was crucial.

The former NFU county chairman also took visitors along the sea front, where an £18m project has begun to pump and dump sand dredged from the North Sea. The aim will be to raise the height of the beach at Walcott by about 10ft.

He could recall as a young boy that the height of the sand had been almost as high as the concrete sea wall.

Mr Love said that a total of 120 acres of farmland at Walcott had been flooded in 2013 and the threat from the sea remained a constant threat. When the water receded, returning to the sea via Great Yarmouth, it had left quantities of rubbish including plastic waste and salt had damaged the land. He wondered whether these salt incursions could have added to the environmental issues in and around Catfield Fen.

The extent of the rapid erosion of cliffs at Happisburgh was also quite shocking, he said. One stretch in the past 20 or so years has receded at least 123 metres. The farm lost two acres to the sea in 2007 and another two acres in 2013.

While rocks had been moved closer to protect the cliffs, he had lost 40 metres to the sea so far this year where there was no hard protection.

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