Fentongollan

Well done to all who booked to visit the bulb fields for turning up on what was a truly miserable wet morning on March 21st.  Our spirits were revived on meeting Jeremy Hosking and being directed to a meeting room where he had set up a PowerPoint presentation and coffee, the bulb fields being out of bounds due to the rain.  We were fortunate that James, elder brother to Jeremy and responsible for the bulb and flower business, was able to join us too.  Clearly James is passionate about daffodils. The story of Fentongollan was presented from 1883 through four generations to the present.  The herd of pedigree ‘South Devon’ cattle much loved by James’ and Jeremy’s father has now gone and today the business specialises in fat lamb production alongside daffodils (170 acres), vegetable plants (in operation for over 60 years) and cereal enterprises using mainly Lithuanian labour.  There can be up to 5 HGVs a day taking away daffodil flowers, with bulbs and flowers even being exported to Holland! Around 90 million plants of a vast range of different types of vegetable are produced each year.  Mainly these are sold to be grown on by commercial vegetable growers but they are also available via the Fentongollan shop and by mail order to the public.   If you pick up a winter cauliflower in any supermarket today, chances are it started life at Fentongollan.

A walk through the seed production area was fascinating.  On the production line we saw the seed
sowing machine in action.  It fills the tray cells, dibs a hole, sows the seed and waters it.  The millions of seeds sown here have to be grown to very exacting standards demanded by the commercial growers.  There must only be one seed per cell, the plants must all be the same size and must be ready to supply to the grower on a specific date.  The young plants are despatched throughout the country in specially designed crates.

After sowing and germination the trays are laid out in huge polytunnels 400,000 plants per tunnel. The scale of the operation is staggering, but as with any horticultural enterprise, there are many external factors such as weather, temperature, vermin and disease which can affect production especially where standards are so critically strict, but fortunately Jeremy has become accustomed to ‘large scale’ and is very experienced at spotting any occasional difficulty early.

Back in the warm we enjoyed sandwiches and cake for lunch and Jeremy explained that there was no standing still at Fentongollan.  A recent innovation is to produce Christmas Hampers of carefully selected Cornish produce, flowers and cheese, for mail order as if they haven’t got enough to do!

We all agreed that it had been a most interesting morning and James and Jeremy were thanked for giving up a chunk of valuable time to make sure our visit was enjoyable.

Jean Marcus, Letitia Yetman & Gwen Charlton