Ollie Bartlett, of Alan Bartlett and Sons, specialises in growing, washing and packing root vegetables for UK supermarkets. Produce goes from field to fork in as little as two days.
Alan Bartlett and Sons is a fourth-generation, family-owned company. It is a large farm in Cambridgeshire currently renting in excess of 3,500 acres: the size of 2,650 football pitches. East Anglia is well known for growing these vegetables but the Bartletts also use land on the Moray Coast in Scotland for late season supply, working with host farmers as part of their crop rotation.
The Bartletts grow parsnip varieties including Javelin and Palace, chosen for their flavour, resistance to pests and diseases, and robust growing quality.
“We never have two days the same,” Ollie says. ‘‘We are always looking for what we can do better and more efficiently. Each day, harvesting starts at midnight so the crop can be delivered back to the factory ready for a 6am start. We wash, grade and pack throughout the day, ready for deliveries to our customers early the following morning. We work with agronomists to monitor and sample all of our crops each week to ensure we do all we can to avoid pests and diseases from attacking the crops."
Unlike other vegetables, which are harvested and cold stored, parsnips are dug fresh every day, so the weather can sometimes be a challenge, especially as they're so popular around Christmas. The farm has been known to supply a normal three months’ worth of parsnips in the 10 days leading up to Christmas Day alone.