A fruit and vegetable wholesaler has won the farming equivalent of an Oscar.
There were tears in the eyes of staff at Bedfordshire Growers in Biggleswade on Tuesday last week – but not from the onions for which the business is famed.
The consortium was celebrating after the firm scooped the Vegetable Grower of the Year award at the UK Grower Awards in London.
Members of the consortium attended a prestigious awards night at the The Grand Connaught Rooms.
The annual event is sponsored by Horticulture Week magazine and Bedfordshire Growers won its accolade for the major contribution the company has made to the British onion market.
Bedfordshire Growers managing director Stephen Hedderly said: “It is a great honour to receive this award, especially as last year we celebrated our 50th anniversary.
“It is a fitting tribute for all of the hard work, dedication and innovation our growers and staff have put in since the business was formed back in 1963.”
Over the last 50 years Bedfordshire Growers has introduced new varieties of the vegetable and was responsible for bringing the now popular red onion to the UK market .
It also developed the less pungent SupaSweet onion to suit people with more delicate tastes.
They have also been at the forefront of developing high-tech storage techniques and it’s thanks to Bedfordshire Growers that high quality British onions are now available to the British public through the year.
Over time the firm has helped Bedfordshire to become the UK’s number one county for producing onions.
Over the decades Beds Growers has expanded in scope and capacity and can now process more than 40 tonnes of onions a day.
Its customers include supermarket giants ASDA and Sainsbury’s.
As the onion season runs for most of the year, the vegetables can mainly be supplied from Chronicle Country farmers, apart from a period of around six weeks in the summer.
But it’s not just onions that are Bedfordshire Growers’ claim to fame. In the 1990s they branched out into salad vegetables.
Their foresight of the changing market in the UK for greater choice and their innovative approach to new varieties mean that gem hearts, hearts of romaine, red mini cos and sweet gem varieties are now found on the shelves of supermarkets.
As well as the vegetable production side, Beds Growers also runs a shop selling local produce including jams, preserves, condiments and pickles, as well as clothing and many agricultural wares and equipment.