Farmer creates jobs with herb enterprise

Arable farmer David Laurie has not waited for Europe's long-awaited reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to grow his business.While EU Agriculture Ministers held talks in Luxembourg on CAP reform, Mr Laurie launched a range of freshly-prepared fresh salads.

MICHAEL POLLITT, EDP Agricultural Editor

Arable farmer David Laurie has not waited for Europe's long-awaited reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to grow his business.

While EU Agriculture Ministers held talks in Luxembourg on CAP reform, Mr Laurie launched a range of freshly-prepared fresh salads.

In 18 months, he has expanded a herb and salad enterprise from scratch and now employs a dozen staff at Place Farm, Stuston, Diss.


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Three years ago, Mr Laurie, aged 30, decided to stop growing just cereals and sugar beet. "I wanted to get away from growing cereals to dump into the market and grow something the market really want," he said.

The business, D Laurie & Son, sells to retailers, restaurants and has just won a contract to supply 80 Ipswich & Norwich Co-op Stores with eight freshly-prepared salads - grown on the farm.

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Instead of growing cereal crops and taking Europe's subsidies, Mr Laurie has also taken the plunge and diversified into a specialist and unsubsidised market – growing herbs.

Europe's Agriculture Ministers, who resume crucial talks on CAP reform on Wednesday, are under acute pressure to break the link between production and subsidies.

Farmer Mr Laurie, who farms a total of 1450 acres, recognises that the decision to grow herbs has been "a very steep learning curve" but he is relishing the challenge.

He grows 22 herbs from rosemary, sage, thyme to rocket, Bull's Blood and tarragon on 70 acres – employing nine in the pack house, plus family labour and three seasonal jobs.

He started growing parsley on contract almost 10 years ago and has 99 acres to harvest this summer.

When his grandfather moved to East Anglia in the 1930s, farming was not supported with subsidies.

Today, the third-generation farmer is delivering fresh-grown herbs and salad crops into North Norfolk and from Acle and Lowestoft, to Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich.

His cousin, Jeremy, manages the refrigerated packing operation at Stuston and team of drivers, who divide their time between picking, packing and delivering across the region.

"We're looking to add value by growing as many of the crops as we can," he said.

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