Growing brassicas in Wilmington
- Credit: Archant
Wilmington-based farmer Toby Williams on growing everything from Brussel sprouts to blackberries together with his brother Max.
Name: Toby Williams
Job title: Farmer and grower
Where? Wilmington, near Dartford
What sort of farm is it?
It is predominantly arable, fruit and vegetables.
Tell us about the business
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We have about 150 acres and are located just about 17 miles from central London, making us one of the farms closest to the capital. The farm is devoted to arable, fruit and vegetables. When I took it over in 2004 the concentration was on the production of cabbages for Waitrose plus courgettes and runner beans aimed at the wholesale trade.
My brother Max joined me in 2006 and we have developed the business and now grow a wide range of brassicas.
These include summer, winter and pointed cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, Brussel sprouts, runner beans, Tuscan kale, calabrese, spring greens – and indeed quite a lot more.
We also grow a wide selection of fruit including raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants. The arable crops mainly consist of winter wheat, spring wheat and field peas.
Who or what was your inspiration?
I am not from an agricultural background but from a very early age I was very passionate about farming. Stanhill Farm is the realisation of determination, hard work and good fortune.
How long have you been in farming?
For 18 years, but my interest began very early in my life – as far back in fact as I can remember.
Have you had any training?
I haven’t had any formal training, but I learned a lot when I began work at a farm in Ruxley in 1997. I have undertaken a huge amount of research and read numerous books. I never stop learning.
How do you market?
We opened the Farm Shop in 2009 and it goes from strength to strength. A lot of our clients are regulars and most of them live within a 20-mile radius, although people travel from as far away as Canary Wharf to buy from us.
We operate a box scheme within a radius of approximately 10 miles, and our online sales/delivery service is increasing all the time. We also supply all the London wholesale markets. Max drives to market three nights a week and I drive the other three.
How many people do you employ?
One full-time member of staff plus Max and I - and then it depends on the time of year and the day of the week. At weekends, when we are especially busy, we have four or five people working in the shop. We like to employ local people whenever possible and we also have a very good team from Lithuania for the summer harvest. Our teams are very hardworking and loyal.
Describe your working day
I normally start early, about 5.30-6.00am. I begin in the office to plan operations according to what is ready to harvest and in relation to the orders we must fulfil. Our produce is always harvested when it is in perfect condition – that is one of our core values.
Produce goes direct to our Farm Shop or is packed ready to take to market. The rest of the day I may be tractor driving, drilling or spraying – it really depends on the time of year. If it is one of my evenings to drive to market I will finish and be home by 12.30am.
Any children following in your footsteps?
I don’t have any children. Max has two very small children and it’s far too early to say if they will be interested in the farm.
Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?
It is challenging, but I love it, so it’s a 10 all the way! w
Get in touch
Stanhill Farm, Birchwood Road, Wilmington, near Dartford DA2 7HD
01322 669711 or email@example.com