Michael Hooton has been in the horticulture business longer than most, with 30 years’ experience in the industry. Born and bred in Lincolnshire, he started farming at Gwydryn Hîr in 1964, growing arable crops.
In 1989, strawberries were introduced to the farm, followed by vegetables and a Pick Your Own facility. A seasonal farm stall has now transformed into a farm shop which is open 7 days a week. Due to popular demand, a café was also opened, employing many local people. Hooton’s Homegrown now have two satellite farm shops, located in Fron Goch Garden Centre, Caernarfon and James Pringle Weaver of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.
What once started as a small scale pick your own strawberry business, selling from a little table has now expanded into 1000m2 Venlo glass houses, 450m2 of polytunnels and over 20 hectares of land for pick your own. The Hooton’s family have come a long way from selling asparagus from their back door.
Like many horticulture businesses in Wales, Hooton’s Homegrown admit that finding skilled labour is a challenge for their business. With increasing competition from many food retailers in the area, it’s hard to make yourself stand out.
“At Tyfu Cymru, we ensure that all our advice and training recommendations are 100% tailored to your business and its needs. This way, we can identify exactly what you need in order to flourish”, says Alice Coleman, Horticulture Development Officer.
“Tyfu Cymru is a friendly one stop shop for everything horticulture and can point you in the right direction whatever the question”, Michael Hooton adds.
Having informed Tyfu Cymru about their specific requirements, Hooton’s received 100% funded 1:1 advice from one of their training providers, ADAS. Having soil sampling and nutrients analyses and cropping advice has allowed Hooton’s to become more competitive in the market, by gaining knowledge and insight they did not have before.
“Tyfu Cymru study visits have opened our eyes, given us many new ideas and re-energised our horticulture enterprise”, Michael said.
Furthermore, Hooton’s relished the opportunity to visit other similar businesses on ‘fact finding away days from home’ to pick up hints and tips and a visit to a rhubarb and squash enterprise.
“Welsh growers need the partnership of Tyfu Cymru to stimulate the Welsh horticultural industry with up to date techniques and developments and promote a viable future”, Michael concludes.
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