Farming Background

 I was given my first farm to look after at the age of 26; seven hundred acres of top and soft fruit with arable cropping. With the guidance of my mentors I identified key strengths and set about restructuring the business to exploit them.

This experience helped to set the values to which I have worked ever since; taking a step back, looking at what you have and playing to your strengths.

In that first big management job I went on to develop the marketing force of my farm by involving myself very actively in a number of farmer-controlled businesses. By my mid-30s I was a director of six marketing and service co-operatives of which I was chairman of three, vice-chairman of one and played an executive role in all.

My move to Suffolk gave me new opportunities to develop innovative thinking to secure a successful farm business framework.

I restructured 10,000 acres of farmland from a three-unit setup to a single farm unit, capturing economy of scale without compromising quality of output, thereby exploiting the size and structure of the holding and the productive capacity of the soils. This in turn set the stage for a switch in cropping emphasis away from EU supported cereals and sugar beet and much further into free-market vegetable crops.

Further innovations and developments I instigated included a unique growing, harvesting and storage system for dry bulb onions centred around an 18t ‘big box’ handling unit and the expansion of an irrigation system to supply and apply over 600 million gallons of water to 3500 acres of vegetable crops.

Effecting change requires the involvement and support of a great many people. The need to place a high value on teamwork and staff development is paramount. Fostering a culture of ‘ownership’ of activities at all levels and appropriate delegation of responsibility will lead to the kind of team spirit essential for success.

In 2010, a combination of my Nuffield Farming Scholarship and my experience at the Cranfield Business School  led me to consider it a good time to take my farming and food experience into a wider arena, finding new challenges and delivering value to other businesses. As part of a varied portfolio, I  chaired two joint venture farming groups in the UK, and was involved in the establishment of an irrigated agriculture for a company in Russia. 

In 2014, I took on the role of Managing Director of Frederick Hiam Limited, a family farming business in East Anglia. For 6 years I led the restructuring of that business to make it fit for the 21st century, departing in August 2020 to concentrate on my independent activities.

Discussing marketing options with
Justin King, the then CEO J Sainsbury plc.