They were given a tour by technical manager Tracy Collacott of the Suffolk seedsman's trial grounds, where potential new introductions and existing varieties are assessed by the company's experts, and its seed testing laboratory, where levels of germination and purity are determined.
Production director Jeremy Sharp showed the group round the seed packeting area and discussed quality assurance procedures, while logistics manager James Nutt gave an insight into the despatch area, revealing that in the past 12 months his team has used 8,000 cartons, 60,000 staples and 8km of parcel tape in sending out retail orders. The company's commercial director Tim Jeffries gave the students a presentation on marketing.
The Homebase Garden Academy is a 12-month scheme which gives those interested in horticulture the opportunity to work full-time in a Homebase store while receiving hands-on training and encouragement. It is run in partnership with garden designer Adam Frost. Successful students attain the Royal Horticultural Society's Level One award in practical horticulture and a City and Guilds-accredited garden licence.
Mr Fothergill's says it welcomes visits from staff of its retailers who wish to gain a greater understanding of the garden seed trade.