Sue mentions she was working in earthmoving engineering, and her husband worked as a farm manager. They decided they would rather work for themselves, so they bought a field, built a house themselves, erected some Northern Polytunnels and the farm grew from there.
When they first started, they were growing pinks, which they supplied to the wholesale markets and Marks & Spencer. Slowly, they erected more tunnels and then erected glasshouses. Over the years, they have tried a number of crops such as AYR Alstroemeria, which is a great crop to grow but difficult to get the right returns. They tried Delphinium, outdoor Iris, Asters, Gypsophila, and natural-season Chrysanthemums. They finally decided to give up growing outdoors and to concentrate on indoor production, using a controlled environment. During this time of growth, they were approached to grow for Waitrose so they made the change from M & S, first growing all Waitrose Stocks and then half of all their tulips. After making the switch, they steadily increased the growing area. Waitrose also had fewer stores back then, and as they grew in size so did Lambs Flowers Ltd; as Lambs Flowers Ltd.has grown, Waitrose has been very supportive.
What is especially unique about this business is they are still family run, and everyone in the family is very hands on. There aren’t any tasks they ask their workers to do that they haven’t already done themselves, and they are quite happy to pitch in and get their hands dirty, too.
Their workforce has slowly changed over the years. When they started, there would be local people from the village working with them. They now hire workers whose first language is not always English. In those cases, they provide English lessons to help the workers communicate at work and in the local communities. They see their workers as extended family members, and consequently, they know the names of everybody working there; they take an interest in their family lives and in their individual situations.
Of most importance to us is the issue of fairness. Our supermarket industry has been under a lot of scrutiny in recent years, but more can still be done to make the opportunities in the supply chain fairer.
This can be accomplished by promoting British growers. Many consumers assume all tulips come from the Netherlands and have no idea that the majority of the cut tulips in supermarkets are actually grown in Britain. More needs to be done to promote British flowers year ’round. Also, more support for small growers would be important, so they don’t disappear.
One of the most exciting current developments in the industry is in Hydroponics!
Sue says, "If I could grow my Stocks out of soil and in hydroponics, that would be a big leap forward. Soil diseases are always a problem, steam sterilizing is hard work and expensive, and our chemical armort is forever on the decrease."
A point of special pride is that all of our customers visit the farm. We want them to get a quality product every time and hopefully they get that "feel good" factor whenever they buy one of our bunches.
And for anyone thinking of entering the business, we would say, "Have a go! Although there are bigger growers out there, there’s always a place in the market for one more. Absorb all the information you can, and go for it!"
Feel free to contact Lambs Flowers Ltd at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Lambs Flowers Ltd. website at http://www.florabritain.co.uk/lambs-flowers-ltd.htm