Meet Joe Cottingham of Watts Farms

PUBLISHED: 14:17 28 March 2015 | UPDATED: 14:17 28 March 2015

Joe Cottingham

Joe Cottingham

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

The Kent county chairman of the NFU, a former Young Grower of the Year, on growing a wide range of crops and herbs across 10 different sites

Name: Joe Cottingham

Job title: Group Director with co-directors Mike, Avril and Ed Gray

Farm: Watts Farms Fresh Produce Holdings Limited.

Where: The head office is at Dartford but we have 10 sites including farms at Farningham, Swanley, Orpington, Southfleet and Higham, plus glasshouses in Essex and Bedfordshire. In total we farm about 1,000 acres.

What sort of farm is it?

‘Farming’ is more or less divided into agriculture and horticulture and we are the latter. We grow a very large range of crops – about 75 in total – including curly parsley and a wide selection of other fresh herbs, spinach, kale, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, sugar snap peas, onions, plus a 
great deal more. We aim to produce top quality in every part of the farms.

Avril took over the original farm from her father when she was in her twenties and today she is involved in key decision making and staff welfare. Mike’s previous background was as a top salesman in Spitalfields Market. Ed, Avril and Mike’s son, qualified as a doctor before joining the group to take over responsibility for the Foodservice side of the business. I became a partner in 2007 and then a director during the company’s restructure in 2013.

What training have you had?

I went to Moulton College, which was

near where I lived, and then onto Reading University where I achieved a BSc (Hons) in Agriculture. It was definitely the right choice for me and I have been with the Watts Group since 2000, when I joined as farm manager.

Describe a typical working day

Probably it’s best if I give you a bit of a breakdown about what goes on during the week. On Mondays I drive up to Bedfordshire to check production in our glasshouses and then, on the way back to Dartford, I do the same at the glasshouses at Harlow in Essex. We then have a board meeting at the head office. On Tuesdays I walk the outdoor production in Kent and that takes a total of about 12 hours.

Wednesdays are always taken up with management meetings and decisions about which crops are ready. Thursdays and Fridays are largely devoted to product development, pricing and so on.

We are always innovating, for example, we’re currently investigating setting up a graduate training partnership with Hadlow College.

We are passionate about encouraging bright, motivated young people into the industry – it offers excellent prospects.

You grow a very wide range?

Yes, demand is increasing and consumers these days take far, far more interest in the provenance of the food they buy than they used to. We have developed growing techniques that extend the growing season and also widened our product ranges. We believe that we should grow as much of 
our food needs as possible here in the UK.

How do you market?

We directly supply more than 700 restaurants and hotels and we also work with wholesalers, the major supermarkets and other retailers.

Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?

No hesitation whatsoever. It is definitely a 10!

Get in touch

Watts Farms, Sondix House, Sandpit Road, Dartford DA1 5BU

01322 620999 or joe@wattsfarms.co.uk

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