DOWN ON THE FARM IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR
As the company name suggests, it’s very much a family affair for WL Laslett and Sons. Based at Little Weddington Farm in Ash, near Canterbury, the company was founded by William Laslett alongside wife Lynda and eldest son Gary back in 1984.
“I was 16 when I started and I’ve never done anything else,” said middle son Steve Laslett, who joined the business in 1986. “It’s very hard work, but also very rewarding.”
Younger brother Vernon joined the company in 1991 and today all three brothers are involved in the day to day running of the farm, which covers around 300 acres. They grow a wide variety of fruit and vegetables all year round, supplying a number of customers, including the wholesaler Kingsland, who in turn supply many Shepherd Neame pubs.
Produce is also sold direct to the public at two outlets, White Mill Farm Shop in Sandwich and Broad Oak Farm Shop near Sturry.
But first the produce has to be grown, and much dedication and many long hours are required to get the perfect potato and the classiest cabbage out of the ground.
“A winter’s day will start around 7am and go through to around 3.30pm,” said Steve. “In summer it can be seven in the morning through to five or six in the evening.”
Available produce varies according to the time of year. Cauliflower and cabbage, for instance, are available all year round, asparagus appears from April to June, runner beans from July to September and sweetcorn from August to October. Strawberries are an important crop from June to November.
Winter squash is harvested from October to February, and in recent years pumpkin has become very popular in the run-up to Halloween.
Potatoes are another staple crop. They are harvested from the end of May with the final main crop of the season dug in throughout October and November. Laslett’s grow a huge variety of potatoes including chipping varieties such as Cabaret and Gravity, alongside Desiree, Maris Piper, Mozart and Picasso.
Four years ago the company invested in a state of the art store where potatoes can be kept at a monitored ambient temperature after harvesting.
Steve said: “It means we can keep up to 900 tonnes of potatoes in cold store at any one time.”
The store is used in tandem with a rather grand potato grading machine.
“The machine weighs the potatoes, grades them and discards small and inferior specimens,” explained Steve. “It then loads them into sacks which are automatically stitched up.
“On a good day this machine can process eight to 10 tonnes of potatoes in an hour.”
It takes around 40 sacks of potatoes to make a tonne, and those that are discarded during grading go to be used as cattle feed.
Between October and March they harvest Brussel sprouts, and this crop highlights how the company have adapted to meet changes in public taste.
Steve said: “Where once people expected sprouts to come loose, there has been a growing demand over recent years for sprouts sold on the stalk. This is partly to do with appearance, but also has a practical side as sprouts still on the stalk will remain fresh for a number of weeks.”
Whatever produce is being grown, for WL Laslett and Sons the bottom line is working hard to provide top quality produce for local customers.
Steve added: “We pride ourselves on producing the best fruit and vegetables that we can.”
For more information visit www.laslettfarms.co.uk