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Farmer who supplies Chinese restaurants launches quest for new markets

PUBLISHED: 06:12 09 May 2020

Pete Thompson, a third generation, farmer at Great Oakley, who has launched a veg box service  Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Pete Thompson, a third generation, farmer at Great Oakley, who has launched a veg box service Picture: PHIL MORLEY

George Thompson Ltd

A farmer admits he’s on “an incredibly fast learning curve” after launching a new fruit and vegetable box delivery service in response to the coronavirus lockdown.

Vegetable boxes prepared by Holt Farm at Great Oakley Picture: PETE THOMPSONVegetable boxes prepared by Holt Farm at Great Oakley Picture: PETE THOMPSON

Pete Thompson’s online shop, Holt Farm, offers home delivery around Colchester and parts of south and central Ipswich, with the postcode range widening by the week to other parts of Suffolk and Essex.

The grower, based on the family farm at Great Oakley, near Colchester, specialises in produce for the Chinese restaurant market in the UK, as well as apples, pears and plums.

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But his business hit the floor when restaurants were forced to close due to the coronavirus crisis and he came up with the vegetable boxes idea.

“We are operating our fruit and vegetable delivery boxes to keep some of our staff employed and ensure local people have access to fresh food,” he explained.

Vegetable boxes prepared by Holt Farm at Great Oakley Picture: PETE THOMPSONVegetable boxes prepared by Holt Farm at Great Oakley Picture: PETE THOMPSON

“It’s been an incredibly fast learning curve since we launched this business a few weeks ago and incredibly rewarding dealing directly with customers - a refreshing change from working with big business.

“This is a long term plan for us, to help people during the current crisis, but we hope it just marks the start of selling produce direct to local people.”

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There are five boxes to choose from large, small, English-grown, Gourmet and Just Fruit.

Thompson Leaf growing on Pete Thompson's farm at Great Oakley  Picture: PHIL MORLEYThompson Leaf growing on Pete Thompson's farm at Great Oakley Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Contents will change weekly with the seasons and include as much local produce as possible including rhubarb, spring greens and salad onions from Holt Farm itself.

Shoppers can also purchase Pete Thompson’s award-winning apple juice, Cotchel and Reliquum London Dry Gin, fruit spirits and Apple Brandy.

Like other farmers, Pete found he had crops in the ground that were bound for restaurants and suddenly no demand so the new box scheme will ensure that the produce doesn’t go to waste.

Boxes contain salad onions, spring greens and rhubarb from Holt Farm and over the coming months customers will find luxuries like heritage tomatoes which were being grown for Michelin-star chef Raymond Blanc, salad leaves like sorrel and lovage, fresh chick peas and fruit including figs, plums and apricots and several unusual citruses Meyer Lemons, Calamondim and Finger Limes.

Pete has been working on sourcing more local produce and working with other local growers, including Fairfield Farm potatoes and local strawberry growers.

He has teamed up with other food businesses including Essex pork farm Wicks Manor Pork, Hillfarm Oils, Crude Coffee and will soon add local artisan bread, milk and eggs.

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