Whaplode grower with weather and markets against him

Lance Whittington taking alliums to the cold store at  M & G Congreve at Whaplode. Photo: SG140613-124TW

Lance Whittington taking alliums to the cold store at M & G Congreve at Whaplode. Photo: SG140613-124TW

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All farmers have to contend with the uncertainties of the weather but flower growers are also at the mercy of the fickle consumer.

Sales of flowers go up and down, for no apparent reason, yet growers like Lance Whittington have no option but to continue planting and nurturing their crops.

Lance, who farms with his father-in-law Maurice Congreve, at M & G Congreve of Whaplode, has streamlined the flowers he grows to those that best withstand the erratic weather conditions that seem to be the norm – and to those the supermarkets are prepared to pay enough for to cover production costs.

Lance said: “We used to grow a lot more but stopped because the market wouldn’t pay the price. We have to make a living.”

He has daffodils, the bulbs of last year’s forced crop currently being cleaned for re-planting, about 160,000 alliums in cold store, and the alchemilla is being cropped.

The farm also grows crops such as wheat, potatoes, sugar beet – and maize.

The business operates the popular maize maze, which last year was two weeks late opening and, in line with the tourist industry generally, suffered a bad season.

This year, the maize is growing very slowly, and Lance says: “It needs sun. It’s struggling for sunlight. Fingers crossed it will be okay, but it’s only five weeks from opening and it’s only five inches tall so it might be a dwarf maze.”