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A day in the life of a Kentish salad grower

PUBLISHED: 12:03 25 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:27 20 February 2013

A day in the life of a Kentish salad grower

A day in the life of a Kentish salad grower

Meet Offham-based salad grower Stephen Betts to hear all about his typical working day

A day in the life of a Kentish salad grower

Meet Offham-based salad grower Stephen Betts to hear all about his typical working day

Name: Stephen James Betts.

Job title: Salad grower.

Where: Offham, near West Malling

What sort of farm is it?

Predominately salad crops and arable.

At what age did you start?

I grew up on the farm. That says it all!

Who or what inspired you?

Knowing that I was following in the steps of my great grandfather, grandfather and father in other words, its in the blood.

How long have you farmed?

Since I left Cirencester in 1977, but I have been involved in farming since I was a very small boy.

What training did you have?

I went to Cirencester, the Royal Agriculture College, where I obtained an Advanced Diploma in Farm Management.

What sort of salad crops do you grow?

Sixteen different types of lettuce including Iceberg, Little Gem, Cos and Radicchio, plus Red Chard, Wild Rocket and Bull Blood. We also grow about 200 acres of arable.

Describe your working day

Much depends on the time of year. During the spring and summer it is a 5am start. We have a total of about 90 staff, nine full-time and the remainder employed seasonally. We are in the process of taking on Adam Lockwood, who is due to graduate from Hadlow with a degree in International Agriculture.

At this time of the year we operate four teams, each consisting of 15 people, harvesting the lettuce and other produce.

I like to visit every area of the farm, and speak to everyone, on a daily basis. My day frequently involves taking visitors, often customers, for a conducted tour of the farm. These days I have to spend more and more time in the office.

Tell us abut the farm itself

We have about 1,000 acres. My great-grandfather bought the farm in 1930. It was originally a hop farm but, in the thirties, there were problems with disease in hops in addition to which the country was suffering from post-war depression. The decision was made to grow vegetables and salad crops, a judgment that in part related to proximity to London. My great-grandfather also had a pedigree dairy herd, later pedigree sheep were added we exported rams to Australia and Argentina and my father subsequently added pedigree pigs. Large Whites, in fact.

When I returned from Cirencester, the pigs were my responsibility for two-and-a-half years. We produced them for top-quality bacon. I then went to work for TEARFUND (a leading relief and development charity that works with Christian agencies) in Africa.

I returned home when my father was ill and took over the farm in 1982, since when the concentration has been on salad crops. We use field production in entirety no glasshouses or polytunnels although we do use fleece to protect crops early in the year. The farm is a family affair, my brother Ian is also involved, and I couldnt do what I do without the help and support of my wife, Anne.

How do you market the produce?

We have verbal contracts with processors who produce bags of salad leaves for the supermarkets. We also sell to several large wholesalers in Kent and Sussex who supply hospitals, schools, restaurants, pubs and other big users. We have a manager whose job includes speaking to all our customers on a daily basis.

Do you have children following in your footsteps?

None of our three children is currently involved but I am hoping that one day this will change.

Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?

If I was still working entirely outside - totally involved in production it would be a 10! As it is, I have to spend more time than I would like in the office, therefore eight!


Church Farm, Offham ME19 5NZ

01732 843412

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