Why Romeo would be an effective mentor
- Pembrokeshire-born second-generation farmer Romeo Sarra decided many years ago that unlike his father, he had no intention of devoting his working life to dairying. After leaving college, he began working on his own farm, which at first involved him in all aspects of general agriculture including dairy, beef and arable. He then slowly began to reduce livestock numbers, gave up milking and began to diversify into horticulture, which is now the mainstay of the business.
- In the early 90s, he purchased a 40 acre smallholding at Portfieldgate near Haverfordwest, with the intention of growing cereals and potatoes. A few years later, he converted the farm to organic. This winning combination has resulted in him growing, packing and selling a wide range of organic root crop vegetables as well as seasonal summer produce to an ever-growing customer base of niche buyers.
- He currently sells mainly through bespoke box schemes, both locally and on the M4 corridor, offering both delivery and collection options and he also sells larger quantities to a local Pembrokeshire organic wholesaler. He has steadily built up a regular customer base of individuals who value the unrivalled taste and provenance of freshly organically grown farm produce at competitive prices.
- The open field-scale horticulture, which Romeo operates on a rotational ten-acre block basis, evolved from potatoes through to carrots, parsnips, swedes and other root crops, as well as brassicas including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and curly kale. Also included are runner and other types of beans grown outdoors together with an expanding selection of seasonal summer produce in a large poly-tunnel.
- By building up the horticulture side of the business, Romeo has gathered experience and skills which cover all practical aspects of horticultural production and his enthusiastic approach will encourage and inspire others. This includes the selection of appropriate land and crops, cultivation, drilling, planting, seeding, propagation, weed and pest control, and harvesting together with sourcing seeds and plants.
- Romeo has extensive practical experience and has acquired a range of equipment and machinery that helps with more efficient planting and harvesting systems, and is happy to provide guidance to other growers on this important aspect.
- Over the years Romeo has changed techniques for soil management, and is a keen advocate of soil sampling, working stale weed beds and raising plants to transplant so that there is less competition for weeds.
- A good communicator, Romeo is happy to share his experiences of establishing a successful major diversification project utilising arable land to grow combinable organic crops.
- Having been certified organic since 1990, Romeo has experience of business management and administration, marketing, certification and practical growing relating to having organic status.
Current farm business
- 60 acres in total owned
- 40 acres useable for horticulture in 10 acre blocks on rotation. Three to four year rotation system includes potato or brassica, vegetable crops, possibly another vegetable crop, followed by a fertility crop or grass
- Organic since 1990
- Glastir Organic scheme
Qualifications/ achievements/ experience
- National Diploma in Agriculture, Welsh Agricultural College, Aberystwyth 1972-1975
- Work experience at Lackham College of Engineering, Chippenham, Wiltshire
TOP TIPS FOR BUSINESS SUCCESS
“Persistence pays off. You have to work hard, be very focussed, very persistent and on top of things.”
“Try to follow the market and grow things that people might want.”