Me & my job - Mike Harper, managing director, Poplar Nurseries

- How did you get into horticulture?

I left school at 15 with no qualifications. I was required to pay £1 a week board and lodgings at home, and to achieve this, I took up the position locally of apprentice nurseryman. When my grandfather died, I became self-employed, took over the hire of his smallholding and bought some land of my own. I did this while still working full-time at a local nursery, and with the help of my wife, worked day and night, including weekends, until we had saved enough to buy our current premises in Emneth near Wisbech.

- Who or what is your inspiration?

As a lad, I worked with my grandfather, who encouraged me to set up my own business. He always used to say that it's better to work for yourself even if you only earn half as much as you would working for someone else.

- What's a typical day for you?

I meet the staff in the yard at 7.30am and organise the work for the day. Then, I see to customers and arrange for deliveries and collections.

- What has been your best experience?

Meeting my wife, who has worked alongside me throughout the years and supported me in my dream of running my own business.

- What has been your worst experience?

In 1963, the winter weather was so severe that for 12 weeks we were unable to work the land because the ground was frozen several feet down.

- What's the most important thing you have learned?

Always listen to advice, but at the end of the day, you should make your own decisions.

- What does the future hold?

As I am now 67, I hope I will be able to continue to help and advise my two children so that they can secure the future of the business for many generations to come.


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