Cornerways Nursery, home to the UK's largest single tomato-growing glasshouse, has been crowned producer of the year 2015 by the East of England Co-op.
The award was presented to the tomato grower by rural campaigner and president of the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival, Lady Caroline Cranbrook, at the East of England Co-op's annual "Celebrate Local" event in Ipswich last month (19 March).
Cornerways Nursery was crowned after winning a public vote and staving off competition from two other finalists - Suffolk-based Taste of Suffolk and Essex-based Fairfields Farm.
Lady Cranbook said: "What impressed us about Cornerways was not simply the size of the enterprise but also the extraordinary high quality and variety of the tomatoes and the sustainability of the business. We felt that Cornerways was really outstanding and deserved the recognition that this award provides."
Cornerways, which produces 140 million tomatoes every year, became one of the Co-op's "Sourced Locally" suppliers in 2013 and now supplies almost 50 East of England Co-op food stores. Thanks to its unique location beside British Sugar's factory at Wissington, the tomatoes make the most of the warmth and extra CO2 to gain size and flavour.
General manager Patrick Harte said: "We are so delighted to have won producer of the year - it's still sinking in."
He added: "It's great when customers tell you that they like your product and to also get recognition from such an esteemed panel of judges gives an incredible boost to the whole team, who put such pride, passion and hard work into growing our wonderful tomatoes."
The Co-op's East of England Sourced Locally range has grown over the past seven years from just a few suppliers to 140 - bringing around 2,750 local products into stores.
Sourced Locally sales grew by 22 per cent in the year to 25 January 2015. The co-op has also ploughed some £34m back into the region's economy through payments to local suppliers and created more than 300 jobs.