Robert Sturrock has gathered a wide range of practical experiences during the 12 years during which he has been producing fruit and vegetables. It all began with taking a National Certificate in Horticulture at Pershore College.
While studying, Sturrock worked on Peter Ward’s Telford strawberry farm, where he kindled his passion for the industry. He spent summers on the farm growing strawberries and other vegetables, gaining as much knowledge from the hands-on work as the work in the classroom.
He then moved to Herefordshire to work at Richard Cockburn’s strawberry farm where he was given the opportunity to develop his farm-management skills in an organisational role, and he turned around the farm’s practices and doubled its output in three years.
These early successes led to other opportunities. He worked on a fruit farm in Ireland and helped to increase yield there before returning to England to help oversee strawberry production with the McGuffie Brothers at New Farm Produce in Staffordshire.
It was these experiences that nurtured his ambitions. He says: I moved to my role with Balloon Tree farm in 2005 feeling that I had enough experience and confidence from the various jobs I’ve held previously to turn my hands to most things. I learnt a tremendous amount about myself, and the experiences gave me a lot of confidence in managing people.
You have to start at the bottom, you can’t just jump in at the top. You need a traditional base of knowledge before you put it in to action and you must really understand the sector. Before you can manage a crop, or a range of crops, you need to understand how it grows and you do that by getting your hands dirty.