In his role as Managing Director Nick Allpress is no stranger to the media, having appeared in a number of magazine articles and radio and TV interviews. Here is an article published in the Countryside Magazine, who have kindly given permission for it's use. The magazine is available in all good newsagents and can also be subscribed to online by clicking the link below.
Meet the grower.....
Leek growing is an "on-going business" for Allpress Farms Ltd. Managing Director Nick Allpress says there's demand from retailers for leeks every day of the year, and the family-owned and run farming operation in Cambridgeshire is working to respond to that.
The company's packhouse is selling leeks daily, except for Christmas Day, with 98 percent going to retail customers.
Between the first week of July and early May the following year, Allpress Farms harvests around 7,000 tonnes of leeks annually from the 1,200 acres of the vegetable it grows in farmland around Chatteris. Storage means it can extend the UK season to the end of May, and during June, the company sells leeks it grows in Spain.
"I think leeks are still seen as a winter vegetable, albeit they are very versatile to cook," says Nick, who thinks the vegetable's popularity has seen a regeneration due to celebrity chefs using them quite prominently in a lot of dishes.
Allpress Farms Ltd is owned by Nick and his brother Patrick, the farm director, and employs 100 full-time staff. They are the fourth generation of their family to farm in the Chatteris area.
The family has farmed at Hollyhouse Farm, the business's main centre, since 1972. Having a history of growing different root vegetables, including carrots and potatoes, the Allpresses decided in 1991 to focus on slightly more niche crops. Now in addition to leeks, the 2,500 acre farm is also focusing on red and brown onions and is growing sugar beet, maize and wheat.
Nick says leeks are a difficult and challenging crop to grow commercially, with not many UK areas having the soils suitable as they need to be harvested year-round, including in wet conditions.
"You need a light, free-draining soil so you can plant seeds and they germinate easily, and you also need to be able to irrigate throughout the season."
Leeks love regular water, either through rain or irrigation, but don't like being too saturated.
While leeks thrive in cool climates and can tolerate frost, Nick says they need warmth during the growing season, and temperatures below -12C can damage their cell structure.
The introduction of hybrid leek species over the past decade has enabled the farm to provide a much more uniform crop and lower harvest costs, says Nick. However, it's still harvested manually in the field or packhouse.
"There's still not a machine that cuts the base, strips the leek and cuts it squarely at the top to the UK standard for what our customers now expect'"
Nick says his own favourite way to eat leeks is by splitting them down the middle, drizzling oil over them and roasting them for about 30 minutes.
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