JA Collison & Sons thinks big. It has to - growing around 12 million stems a year under 5.5ha of glass and polythene for on-farm packing to Marks & Spencer (M&S), Asda, Waitrose and Sainsbury's.
Big thinking calls for big investment and last year the family business, run by Philip Collison, his wife Diane and brother Ian, built a new 1.1ha glasshouse and a 10 million-litre reservoir.
The latter is for roof water, which has helped Tuxhill Farm near King's Lynn in Norfolk boost production of stocks, Longi lilies, tulips and Japanese asters. Also last year, the Collisons commissioned their new biomass heating generator fuelled by woodchip, and for once the numbers went down. The facility is helping to reduce bills and slash carbon emissions.
"A large part of our cost structure is heating fuel and tulips are the most heat-intensive crop we produce," says the family team. "We identified this as a potential area where we could make savings and decided that biomass was the way to go. Our fuel is supplied from sustainable local forests and we have put up a purpose-built storage area to season the logs."
But doing good is not good enough - in this hyper-competitive market you must be seen to be doing good. JA Collison & Sons has plenty of official Brownie points, from the British Ornamental Plant Producers pack-house and grower accreditation to Linking Environment & Farming and M&S Field to Fork certifications. It hosts farm walks and takes its message beyond the gate through engaging with local media.
Last year, Ian went on radio to promote cut flowers for Valentine's Day, which did more than make the case for romance. It sent out a heartfelt and passionate message about a dynamic family firm that says it with flowers, not just on Valentine's but every day by continually reinvesting profits to stay at the forefront of a demanding sector.
RF Lawrence & Sons/Chrysanthemums Direct