Festive News 2017 2017 - Page 18

CELEBRATING HEREFORDSHIRE’S WORLD BEATING POTATOES PAGE 18 • FESTIVE NEWS • DECEMBER 2017 It is said you can grow anything in Herefordshire’s rich red fertile soil, well watered by the Rivers Wye, Lugg, Frome and Arrow and surrounded by hills creating its own unique micro-climate – just perfect for growing a multitude of crops to feed the nation. And one of the best of the crop must surely be the humble POTATO. Potatoes are a key crop in the local farming economy, and play a big role feeding our families on a healthy nutritional diet. The common Spud – as it is affectionately known – has been the mainstay of British food since Sir Walter Raleigh brought the first potatoes to our shores from America back in the days of Queen Elizabeth the First. Herefordshire Herefordshire potatoes making vodka George Thomas tells the tale of the humble Spud farmers plant 4,500 hectares annually, yielding around 45 tonnes a hectare, a total crop of 200,000 tonnes with a value of £34m to the farmers and £160m at retail value. Nationally, we spend £4bn a year on potatoes. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but so can a potato. Research shows one medium size potato has just 110 calories, but is also rich in health enhancing minerals. It’s a good source of potassium, better, in fact, than a banana, providing 18% of the recommended daily intake and an excellent provider of Vitamin C, 45% of what’s needed for a healthy diet. Or 8% of fibre when eaten with the skin on. The body also needs plenty of iron and your potato represents 6% of the required daily intake. And it is so versatile: bake it, mash it, chips or crisps. Can you image not tucking into your turkey dinner on Christmas Day without the traditional roast potatoes? Many of the national crisp brands buy their potatoes from the county which now has its own local brand. William Chase in 2002 at his Tyrrells Court farm near Leominster decided to cut out the middle man and went into business making his own gourmet crisps on the farm. Now Tyrrells is an internationally famous brand. William sold the business for £30m, later it was sold to an Arab company for £100m, and two years ago an American firm paid £300m for it. Mike Hughes, a member of Hereford Lions Club, was a member of the team which staged a tribute to the potato at the Llanwarne national ploughing championships and he organized a display of potato harvesting machinery going back decades, when potato picking was back breaking work. I remember as a boy in the 50’s spending the entire school summer holidays picking a whole field of potatoes by hand and on my own – and the farmer giving me the princely sum of £5!! Today, huge all-in-one harvesters, costing up to £500,000 sweep through a field picking up close on 400 ton a day. But there is a final twist in the tale of the Spud. We all know Vodka comes from Russia, but the Russians do not make the best Vodka in the World ….Herefordshire does. William Chase invested the money he made selling Tyrrells Crisps in setting up a Distillery at Rosemaund, the former Ministry of COUNTY FIRM SUPPLIES HARVESTORS TO PICK THE POTATO CROP. A Grimme potato harvester Agriculture research farm between Hereford and Bromyard to make his own very special brand of potato Vodka – and the Russians were none too pleased when an international Vodka tasting at competition in America the William Chase Vodka from Herefordshire won the title … ‘Best Vodka in the World!’ What a terrific – and well deserved – tribute to the skill and dedication of Herefordshire’s potato growers – even beating the Russians at their own game. Tyrells Crisps one of Herefordshire’s famous products. Now that surely deserves a celebratory bag of crisps and a large glass of vodka!! When Len Evans started his farm machinery company in 1924 potato picking was a slow bucket and spade manual job. Today, gathering in the crop is handled by sophisticated automated harvesters capable of picking a 15 acre field in a day, Moving 30,000 tons of soil and costing up to £500,000. Len Evans and Son, based at Canon Pyon is one of the biggest specialist suppliers in the country with expert knowledge and skilled engineers to back up the important potato growing industry. Herefordshire produces 15% of the nation’s total annual crop of 4.5million tons The way we consume the humble potato has now changed as we now process 80% into Chips and Fries, 20% into boiled and baked etc in the UK. But did you know Less than half of the potatoes produced each year in the world end up on your plate. Most are processed into items like vodka and farm feed. The company is an agent for the German firm Grimme, one of Europe’s leading manufacturers whose name is synonymous with potato growing, covering not only the Three Counties but right down into West Wales, a region well known for its quality early potatoes. Renowned for their potato equipment. Len Evans is also one of the leading suppliers of tractors and other vital farm machinery and in a county with over ten thousand acres of cider apple orchards producing some 160,000 tonne of cider fruit each season the firm sells the most efficient and reliable harvesters to the cider apple growers. Trevor Jones learnt his trade with the company and is now its managing director, building on the firm foundations laid down by Len Evans close on a century ago, but ensuring it keeps pace with the fast moving technological progress of a modern agricultural industry at the very heart of Herefordshire’s economic success. “Our customer base relies on us to provide – and maintain - the very latest farm machinery without which they cannot run their own enterprises efficiently and profitably,” said Trevor. He added: “ Grimme is a world leading manufacturer and at Len Evans we are exceptionally proud to be recognized as one of their top performing dealerships in Europe. We are committed to giving the local farming community the support and service they require to ensure their crops are picked and delivered to market without delay. 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