from field to fork
Richard Fitzpatrick is general manager of the Holbeach Marsh Cooperative (HMC), which produces around 8,000 tonnes of peas for Pinguin each year: “Our cooperative includes around 30 farmers. By joining forces, they can work in a much more professional and (cost)-effective way: HMC supplies the seed, provides agronomy advice and harvests and markets the crops on behalf of its members.”
The importance of quality....
Richard stresses how each and every grower sets great store by producing the highest quality peas: “All our growers are members of the ‘Assured Produce’ scheme. During the annual audits, they have to prove how they adhere to quality principles in each and every step of producing the crop – from planning, seed sourcing, pesticide storage and application through to harvesting and storage. The scheme also addresses environmental issues, such as soil, water and air protection and waste management.”
… and of continuous improvements
More than complying with strict quality and environmental principles, Richard and his colleagues are always looking for new ways to improve the quality of their produce and work more efficiently and eco-friendlier. “Together with Pinguin and the Processors and Growers Research Organization (PGRO), which is the UK’s Center of Excellence for Peas and Beans, we conduct trials with new varieties of peas, examine how we can prevent diseases while using less pesticides, discuss how to reduce energy consumption and enhance the traceability of our crops, etc. The improvements we’ve made, over the past few years, are impressive,” he says.
Richard illustrates his claim with an example: “We are continually reinvesting in the latest harvesting technology. The newest PMC harvester – added to our fleet of harvesters this year – is equipped with rubber tracks. This reduces ground pressure and damage to the soil structure, resulting in better root growth and healthier crops. In addition, the harvester is equipped with satellite controlled steering, leading to higher crop recovery, better quality and substantial fuel savings. This is a first in our industry!"
Proud to produce peas
Richard’s story clearly demonstrates how he’s passionate about what he does. So how would he promote Pinguin’s frozen peas coming from his cooperative? “A lot of our farmers – or their dads, uncles, etc. – have been part of the HMC family for many, many years. They really take immense pride in growing their peas and do all they can to provide the best-quality peas. As our land is within 40 minutes travelling time from the Pinguin processing plant at King’s Lynn, our peas are frozen within 150 minutes after harvesting so that Pinguin can conserve that great taste. You can’t eat peas fresher than that. If you buy fresh peas at the supermarket, the quality will have degraded significantly by the time you get home – let alone by the time you eat them. If people want fresh, tasty peas, I’d advise them to buy them frozen, from retailers supplied by the Pinguin factory,” Richard concludes.