For those of you unable to join us for ‘Bringing Growers Together’ at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, here’s a brief round-up of all the main action…
Master of Ceremonies Richard Edwards started the day by giving a brief overview of his own links to the horticulture sector. A grower since his youth, Richard explained his current involvement as a Director of the Cultivate project, a social enterprise in Powys which links food to the community. He also touched on his role as Deputy Mayor of Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council, where he has been instrumental in the development of policies that make more use of the area’s open green spaces and prioritise local nurseries in the procurement process.
Stephen Hedderly – Bedfordshire Growers
As Managing Director of one of the UK’s leading vegetable co-operatives, Stephen gave an invaluable insight into the benefits and practicalities of growers working together. He charted the growth of Bedfordshire Growers over its more than 50 years of existence, from an organisation that was established in a single small shed to its current guise, an operation with an annual turnover in excess of £20 million. Stephen also highlighted the importance of innovation, citing the group’s recent launch of the UK’s first ‘No Tears’ sweet red onion, a move which has gained it significant international press coverage. With a career including senior spells at both Tesco and Sainsbury’s, Stephen also provided an insightful analysis of the current state of play with the supermarkets, as well as his thoughts on how the fruit and vegetable industry in Wales could do more to push ‘Welshness’ as a USP.
‘Cultivating Connections’ Speed Networking
The morning’s proceedings then broke out into an energetic speed networking session, which gave attendees the opportunity to connect with a number of contacts, both old and new. With such a large turnout of people space was inevitably tight, but enthusiasm won the day and a number of growers were actually disappointed that the networking needed to end so that the rest of the day’s events could continue.
Case Study 1 – South West Wales Ornamental Grower Group
The first panel session focused on a group of ornamental growers in the South West of Wales who have been working with Horticulture Wales as part of an ongoing project exploring the potential for collaborative working. Featuring a number of growers who have participated in the initiative, the panel comprised: Helen Warrington of Ty Cwm Nursery, Charles Warner of Quinky Young Plants, Stephen Smith of Plas Flowers, and Linda Screen from The Woodland Farm.
The growers shared how one of the most valuable aspects of the group has been the visits to each other’s nurseries and networking meetings, which Linda Screen revealed help “open our eyes to new ideas and perspectives”. Helen Warrington told the audience that the group’s involvement with Horticulture Wales had “opened doors for us all and provided us with a fantastic opportunity”.
Case Study 2 – Shared Stand At Four Oaks Trade Show
Panel two again featured Charles Warner of Quinky Young Plants, who along with Mark Pottle, Director of Pottles Premier Plants, was quizzed about their experience of participating in Horticulture Wales’ shared stand at last autumn’s Four Oaks Trade Show. The exhibition space at the UK’s premier ornamentals trade show was paid for by Horticulture Wales, giving both nurseries the opportunity to showcase their products – and the wider Welsh horticulture sector – to a huge audience of potential buyers and industry insiders.
Operating a smaller scale nursery, the chance to appear at the event was particularly valuable for Charles, who revealed it was the first trade show he had exhibited at and an experience he would hopefully like to repeat in the future. The session ended with a look at how the business relationship between the two growers had developed since the show and explored other areas where they could possibly work together – Charles and Mark are investigating the possibility of sharing product lists with each other’s customers, which has the potential to expand both business’s customer base significantly.
Click here to read the second part of our review…