We’re one of Britain’s biggest farmers, producing food for our stores in a sustainable way. Read on to find out more about life down on our farms.
These days we’re all concerned about where our food comes from and we’re keen to eat seasonally and locally. The Co-operative is the country’s favourite community food retailer, but did you know that we have been supporting Great British Farming for over 100 years?
The story of Co-operative Farms began in 1896, when we bought our first farm to grow potatoes for our food stores. Today we have 14 farms up and down the country. From Aberdeenshire to Kent, we grow potatoes, milling wheat for our own-brand flour, oilseed rape, milling oats for our own-brand oats, strawberries and apples. At our packhouses in Carnoustie in Scotland and Langley Brook in Staffordshire we pack potatoes. And at our packhouses in Highland Court in Kent and Longforgan in Scotland we pack strawberries, apples, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, broccoli, oranges, limes, grapefruit and clementines. All this produce is available fresh from our food stores or in our own-brand products, such as fruit juice.
At Tillington Fruit Farms in Herefordshire, we grow 16 varieties of dessert apple, where old favourites such as Discovery mix with more specialist versions such as Royal Blush. At the Down Ampney Estate near Cirencester, we farm wheat for use in flour in the stores, and we grow spring-malting barley – it goes to Warminster Maltings and eventually ends up in The Co-operative beer.
It’s not just about crops.
The Co-operative Farms aren’t just about growing fresh, delicious produce – we’re investing in education and the environment, too.
Early last year we set up Habitat Heroes, a project that helps to protect and support some of the UK’s most endangered or protected species. The project is running at seven of our farms across the UK, helping the future of everything from otters to red squirrels.
At our farm in Goole, for example, we’re working with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to protect the habitat of water voles.
Their numbers have shrunk dramatically in the UK – because of the introduction of their biggest predator, the American mink, and farmland ditch clearance, which can harm their burrows – so we survey their activity using motion-sensitive cameras, and this allows us to change the way we manage our ditches to protect their habitat.
And at Rosemount Farm in Blairgowrie, we’re working with Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, as there are only 140,000 red squirrels left in Britain.
At Rosemount, we monitor the red squirrel population and have introduced feeders on our farm to supplement their diet when necessary.
We also run Habitat Heroes projects at Down Ampney, Coldham, Tillington, Highland Court and Stoughton.
Visit www. co-operative.coop/habitatheroes
The Co-operative Farms also runs From Farm to Fork, a free food education scheme for children across the UK, which offers visits to our farms to learn about where their food comes from, and aims to inspire children to get passionate about fresh, quality ingredients. On a supervised visit, children explore the farm, plant their own seeds and cook their own nutritious dishes.
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