Sprout-standing! Brussels sprout farm is blessed with a bumper crop

Sprout-standing! One of Britain’s oldest Brussels sprout farms is blessed with a bumper crop this Christmas after a scorching summer sent yields soaring by 20% compared to last year

  • A quarter of a million of the  sprouts will be hand-picked at Essington Farm 
  • Staff at the Staffordshire farm will work all daylight hours during Christmas week
  • Richard Simkin, owner of the farm says the demand has been higher than ever

One of the Britain’s oldest Brussels sprout farms is looking forward to the festive season as it is blessed with a bumper crop this year, right on time before the Christmas rush. 

After a scorching summer Brussels sprout numbers at Essington Farm in Staffordshire, are up 20 per cent compared to previous years.

Richard Simkin, owner of the farm says demand has been higher than ever as shoppers have been opting for independent retailers over supermarkets during the pandemic.

Luckily the perfect growing conditions this year, will allow the family-run business  to meet demand.

Richard Simkin, the owner of Essington Farm says demand has been higher than ever

The 69-year-old’s family has farmed at the 50 acre site since 1892 and now grows 16,000 stems and 600,000 sprouts a year weighing a whopping 20,000 kilos.

About a quarter of a million of the Brussels sprouts will be hand-picked in Christmas week while farm staff will work all daylight hours cutting the stems off the plants with machetes before selling them direct to customers from the farm shop.  

The married grandfather-of-two is just one of a handful of sprout growers in the country and harvests the love-it-or-hate-it vegetable between October and February.

He said: ‘Sprouts are one of our iconic crops that people look forward to like our strawberries and pumpkins.

‘We’re finding people now more than ever want to shop locally these days, for quality and safety.

‘People feel safer in farm shops and want to support local businesses through the pandemic.

‘When it comes to harvesting time, every stem is done by hand. We use a machete. You knock a few leaves off, turn it upside down and chop the leaves off.

‘Everything in farming boils down to the weather if you get a really dry summer you might need to water them or if it’s a freezing autumn they are hard to harvest.

‘But this year they have grown well. I’d say we’re up 20 per cent.

‘We’ve got orders right up to Christmas Eve. People like to have their fresh vegetables as fresh as possible for Christmas.

‘Come Christmas week all of the three farm staff will lend a hand.

Staff at the farm will work all daylight hours during Christmas week, cutting the stems off the plants with machetes, before selling them to customers

‘They put a tractor and trailer in the field, fill it up, purge it out, and start again. It gets a bit mad. Luckily we’ve got enough daylight not to work in the dark.

‘You wouldn’t want to use one of those machetes in the dark. You might lose a finger.

‘In terms of farm shops we are bigger than average. What makes us special is the amount of stuff we do ourselves.

‘Coronavirus may come and go but we’ll always make sure there will be sprouts at Christmas’

Mr Simkin, who runs the farm with wife Mary, son Will and daughter-in-law Penny, plants a range of sprout varieties, which mature at different times to ensure a longer-lasting crop.

He added: ‘We start with one called Maximus, which is ready the end of October, and finish with one called Petrus.

‘Then we have Levitus and Exodus in between. They’re different due to their season of crop, so Maximus matures a bit earlier and Exodus is ready in December.

‘Most people wouldn’t be able to taste the difference – unless they’re a sprout connoisseur.’

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