Naomi, who has a master’s degree in project management, together with her partner Richard, are new entrants to horticulture. They grow a diverse range of organic vegetables from their 10-acre Pembrokeshire smallholding, which they sell through a vegetable box scheme, as well as directly to shops and restaurants. Having researched the market, they feel ready to expand their business model by growing fresh organic herbs, including those which can be made into speciality tea.
“Unlike in France, very few herbs are grown in the UK specifically for teas. Brittany has a similar climate to ours, so my exchange will teach me which varieties to focus on, and I will learn about the cutting, drying, processing and packaging processes.”
Study informs herb grower’s ambition to expand into Welsh tea production
Small-scale herb production can be a profitable business venture, one Welsh grower has discovered during her Farming Connect-supported research across the Channel.
Naomi Hope is a new entrant to horticulture, running Nevern Valley Veg/Llysiau Cwm Nyfer with her partner on less than an acre of land in Pembrokeshire.
Here they grow a diverse range of vegetables and edible flowers to supply local shops, restaurants, and a small weekly vegetable box scheme.
In the next few years they plan to expand their business into growing and processing organic herbs for Welsh teas.
Naomi was awarded a place on the Farming Connect Management Exchange programme to help inform this ambition.
Her research took her to Brittany, a region with a relatively high density of herb growers and with a similar climate to Wales.
Most of the herb farms she visited were producing on less than three hectares. “Small-scale can be profitable,’’ she noted.
In Brittany she joined a five-day training programme run by tea producer, Terres de Tisanes1.
She also visited two farms in South Somerset – the Organic Herb Trading Company and Harpford Herbs.
As a result of her research, Naomi intends to start testing herb production and drying techniques in 2023, before deciding which species to focus on and what products to develop.
French growers, she says, benefit from much better support as new entrants than in the UK – there is a grant of up to €30,000 to get started.
There are also local, regional, and national herb growing market reports and growers’ associations.
“There needs to be more support for farmers, and especially new entrants,’’ she says. “In Brittany there are many more food producers, who are better supported to access land, start-up and link to markets,’’ says Naomi.
MANAGEMENT EXCHANGE REPORT