Fenland asparagus farm needs building to grow

THE future of an asparagus farm could hang in the balance if its manager is prevented from living on site.

Badgeney Farm owner Victor Aveling says: “The future of the existing business depends on the erection of a suitable dwelling for our manager.”

The 68-year-old, who featured heavily in The Day the Immigrants Left programme earlier this year, says severe problems with harvests during poor weather could wreck his crop for good.

He therefore needs to house his manager on site to keep an eye on the produce round-the-clock to make sure he gets substantial yield from the land.

Mr Aveling, who gave jobless locals temporary work on his March farm for the BBC show, said: “We had severe problems with the crop in 2008 owing to very adverse weather conditions and were eventually forced to plough up half of it.”

The chairman of the Asparagus Growers’ Association said the crop has been grown there since 1976 and has “established a very sound marketing base”.

But it all looked bleak two years ago as Mr Aveling said: “I was very worried the remaining 35 acres would have no long term future.”

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That is because an asparagus crop often suffers from “premature decline” during a major setback and never recovers, Mr Aveling said.

Thankfully this year a substantial yield has produced more than 40 tonnes for supermarkets and other customers, giving the president of North East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association “confidence for our production in years to come”.

He can also plant a further 35 acres of crop to replace what he lost in 2008 but will need someone to keep a watchful eye on its progress.

The current manager is forced to live in a caravan even though staff start work at 5am and work late to receive lorries that arrive after working hours.

Mr Aveling, who used to run the farm himself before he employed a manager in 2008, said: “With him in residence it will be possible to plant the additional 35 acres and consider growing alternative crops to make use of existing cold stores and packing facilities.”

His planning application for a house has been submitted to Fenland District Council.

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