Harrowden Turf Director Chantall Ridd-Jones was featured recently in Economia Magazine, this led to the Secretary of Liverpool Agricultural Discussion Society inviting her to speak at one of their monthly dinners. Here’s how she got on
As a chartered accountant who has followed a slightly more unusual career path than most, Chantall was interviewed last year by Economia Magazine. Economia is a monthly publication circulated to all members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Chantall’s interview and photograph were published in Economia’s October 2015 issue and generated some interest. This led to the Secretary of The Liverpool Agricultural Discussion Society, himself an accountant in Ormskirk, to seek out Chantall to speak after one of their monthly dinners.
As their first female speaker in ten years, the pressure was on! She chose to speak about Harrowden Group’s move into the turf industry ten years ago. Followed by Harrowden’s more recent ventures into asparagus and blueberry production in Poland.
Growing up on an arable farm in Northamptonshire, Chantall would work on the land during school holidays. Autumn and Winter would find her driving a John Deere tractor and doing the cultivations. In summer she would run the PYO fruit farm. Chantall went on to take a degree in mathematics and spend a year teaching in Jamaica. For the following 10 years she worked as an Insurance Audit Senior Manager at Ernst & Young London with some of the big names in insurance.
There was no shortage of farming anecdotes to keep the audience awake.
As farmers themselves, the audience were especially fascinated by the diversification into turf through various aquisitions since 2007. In less than 10 years, the Harrowden Group grew from a 3,200 acre arable farm with 3 staff to a much larger enterprise.
Today there are over 8,000 actres of land. This includes 3,000 actres of turf and supports 94 staff, 3 turf depots and 15 trucks. At the same time as the Company was growing, Chantall herself managed to have three children ……so there was plenty to talk about.
The evening ended with a discussion about the Company’s ventures in Poland. Here, Harrowden has a large scale intensive crop production comprising of 5 million asparagus crowns and 180,000 blueberry plants. This again provoked some interesting discussion. Chantall expanded on the challenges that the business faces both in terms of labour requirements (up to 500 people in the the field and packhouse) as well the extreme challenges of the Polish climate. 2015 saw hail, frost and a heatwave where the daytime temperature did not drop below 40 degrees for 10 consecutive days.
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