An East Kent potato business which works with producers in Thanet has scooped a top prize at the Taste of Kent Awards.
Provenance Potatoes took home the Kent Food and Drink Business Award after being recognised for linking local farms and using innovative solutions to reduce their carbon footprint.
The business, with its HQ at Great Mongeham, is supplied with local produce including from Hatfeild Farms at Garlinge/Westgate and Monkton Court Farms.
Judges at the awards, which is organised by Produced in Kent, recognised the value to jobs and the economy of the work done through local growers and also the efforts made to reduce carbon footprint by minimising waste.
Provenance Potatoes is headed up by Tracy Bush and Graeme Skinner. They work with six growers including Jonathan Tapp, whose fields are off Shottendane Road and also rented at Quex, and Philip Smith from Monkton Court Farm.
This year is the 10th anniversary of the business which was set up in 2012.
Tracy, who formerly worked at St Nicholas Court Farms, said: “We have six growers who we work with closely. Everybody is engaged in decisions and strategy and we all share equipment to keep costs down.
“When we did our presentation I think we impressed the judges with the amount we buy from the local community. Our expenditure is 77% with Kent companies and growers. It is a circular economy for local jobs and the rural economy, especially with Thanet being in an area of economic (deprivation) so that is important.”
One of the ways footprint is reduced is by making sure nothing is wasted. Provenance operates a whole crop marketing strategy. They find markets for all sizes, shapes and skin finishes in order to increase saleable yield and reduce wasted inputs and crop. Any tubers inedible for human consumption are returned to a grower for his cattle herd.
Added to this is the ethos of soil health, reducing tillage in the rotation and growing cover crops They encourage biodiversity from grower’s who plant pollinator strips alongside crops
By using irrigation scheduling they also optimise water usage to improve yields and reduce water consumption
Care for the environment is also evident as 98% of packaging is made from unbleached kraft paper and all sacks are made from paper from sustainable mills. The bags can be recycled, the ink is water-based and nontoxic and the sacks are compost, breaking down in around 12 weeks.
As well as selling the potatoes from their growers, Provenance helps with agronomic advice and seed supply to increase yields and quality.
However, loss of grade one land is a concern.
In Thanet some of the Hatfeild land which is rented will be lost to housing that is allocated in Thanet’s Local Plan.
Tracy said: “This is grade one land that is very productive and it os land that will be lost forever. It is very difficult to replace as you need irrigated land for potatoes. We (sell) high quality, local produce 12 months of the year. A lot of fields do not have that irrigation and can’t produce that high quality that customers expect.”
However, for now the land remains productive and Provenance Potatoes and their growers’ group are a strong market force with the introduction of 2kg bags alongside larger sacks appealing to independent retailers, farm shops and veg delivery services and a contract with high-end frozen meal supplier Cook.
The Taste of Kent Awards is Produced in Kent’s annual flagship event, bringing together the finest producers, farmers, retailers, and hospitality businesses in the county.
Floortje Hoette, Chief Executive of Produced in Kent, said:“The judges and I were blown away by the exceptional quality of food and drink we have here in Kent, and it’s wonderful to see the support for buying local hasn’t faded post-pandemic.”
Kent plays a pivotal role in the food and drink economy, with the national food and drink industry contributing £30bn to the economy annually. Having survived a turbulent couple of years, businesses have had to adapt, pivot, and diversify to thrive and are now adjusting to the new economic challenges ahead.
It’s terrible that food producing land is being sold to be concreted over for houses lost for ever.
We need more houses .. on another topic .. I’ve eaten Provenance Potatoes they are delicious well done on the award
Legislation needs to be brought in that agricultural land cannot and must not be used for housing. This is the only way property developers will be stopped. And that must be part of the government’s plan for all the extra housing they insist is needed. Walk around town centres and see how many buildings are empty and / or have vacant and run down flats above – these should all be part of the homes plans and should be the first to be redeveloped.
Many congratulations to all involved with Provenance Potatoes and their excellent work ethic.
I agree with Janes comments Use brownfield sites to build on and then leave the agricultural land to feed the folk that are going to live here.