Film goes behind scenes at Essex growing glasshouses

On the production line at Lea Valley Picture: LVGA

On the production line at Lea Valley Picture: LVGA - Credit: Archant

A ‘living archive’ featuring scenes from Lea Valley’s vast horticultural industry has been launched.

Tomatoes from Lea Valley head along a conveyor belt Picture: LVGA

Tomatoes from Lea Valley head along a conveyor belt Picture: LVGA - Credit: Archant

Growers and glasshouse businesses take centre stage in the new 23-minute film, which showcases the vital horticultural growing area and the people who work there.

It was produced by Lea Valley Growers Association (LVGA) 60 years after the last film, Sea of Glass, was made.

LVGA secretary Lee Stiles said: "We wanted to create a living archive, featuring interviews with the growers themselves for the first time. The film reflects what the industry feels at this point, particularly around Brexit, and about growers' concerns for the future.

"Provision of labour was one of the issues highlighted by pretty much everyone in the film, as the Lea Valley needs around 2,000 staff a year just to maintain existing facilities.

Lea Valley Growers Association's Lee Stiles Picture: LVGA

Lea Valley Growers Association's Lee Stiles Picture: LVGA - Credit: Archant

"We have been asking Europeans to come and work in the glasshouses since the 1950s and, without them, many businesses would have to scale back production or consider relocating. Robotics and artificial intelligence for actually picking the crop is still decades away so this is one of the real issues we are facing at the moment.

"But the film is also very much a celebration of an area that is the cucumber capital of England, that is hugely important for pepper, tomato and ornamental growing and which is producing more food than ever before with the help of cutting-edge technology."

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The LVGA hopes the film will help to recruit staff to the industry, demonstrate the incredible value of horticultural production in the Lea Valley and show its potential for growth with government support.

Growers interviewed for the film include Joe Colletti, chairman of Glinwell Plc, Paz Milazzo of UK Salads, Steve Cornwell of MBJSC Produce Ltd, Paul Rochford of Joseph Rochford Gardens, Jimmy Russo, chairman of the VGS and VGN group, and Edward Udyanskyy of Essex Growers Ltd.

Lea Valley peppers being packed Picture: LVGA

Lea Valley peppers being packed Picture: LVGA - Credit: Archant

The Lea Valley is just 20 miles from Piccadilly Circus in central London and has been the home of glasshouse growing for three centuries. Today its growers produce more than 80m cucumbers and 70m peppers a year - around 75% of the UK crop.