The Fen Peas story started in 1968, when four farmers in the Boston area formed a growers’ cooperative. Initially they grew 600 acres of peas, which were processed at Christian Salvesen’s Easton plant and supplied to JS Frozen Foods. Harvest was carried out by five trailed FMC harvesters, running twelve hours per day.
During the 1970s the acreage expanded, with the arrival of Bill Belton and Alan Lenton.
By 1986 we were farming 1,000 acres. At that point we sold all the trailed viners and bought a brand new FMC 879 self-propelled viner. All our peas still went to JS Frozen Foods at that point; partly for their own brand, Farmers’ Pride, and for retailers.
The late 80s were big years for Fen Peas. In 1988 we expanded to 1,500 acres provided by a total of eighteen growers, and started to take on land further away from Boston. We bought an FMC 679 to keep up. In 1989 our acreage expanded again, to 2,500, and Stephen Francis took over full time responsibility of the company.
The 1990s were turbulent times in the pea industry. Some groups ceased operating, and Fen Peas expanded to fill the gap – adding more growers and more customers. We emerged larger and stronger, and continued adding acres and growers throughout the 2000s.
Today, we farm over 5,000 acres from 82 growers. Some of these have been working with us for years, others are relatively new, and some were part of other pea groups, such as Rochford Tower Viners, Podded Peas, Holland Pea Growers, Deeping Peas, West Fen Peas and ASA Peas. Harvest is now carried out by two Ploeger 540-EPD harvesters manufactured in Holland and one PMC 979-CT harvester manufactured in Norfolk, UK. Our biggest customers is Greenyard Frozen Foods UK with a small tonnage going to AP East Anglia.
Doug likes a challenge – that’s why he manages the daily logistics of harvest. He’s been with us since 2006. His picture gives a hint of his passions away from the peas!
If Paul could drive a viner every day of the year he probably would! He’s been doing it for nearly twenty years, and since 2007 for Fen Peas. For reasons best known to himself, he follows Lincoln City.
James has been with us since 2011 and has plenty of experience handling agricultural machinery. Away from the peas he’s a racehorse breeder.
Henry started out doing the sampling for us in 2009 and soon became an essential part of the field team. He now runs one of our harvest shifts (Nicole runs the other). He’s a keen rugby player and also takes an interest in technology.
Tom has been with since 2012, driving a viner. He raises cattle and sheep as well as working with Fen Peas – which is surprising, as he needs three alarm clocks to get out of bed!
Ady was our longest serving member of the team, starting in 1987, who sadly died in 2017. He was an integral part of the business and is sorely missed, but his wise words are remembered.
Lloyd joined Fen Peas as the sampler for 2014. He did an excellent job, and joined the field team from the 2015 harvest. He loves country pursuits and country pubs!
Jay likes big machinery, so he drives the newest Ploeger harvester. He also loves his football.
Charles is a student at Nottingham University who joined us for the 2017 harvest. We nicknamed him ‘the Professor’ after he built his own GPS guidance system! He’s a farmer’s son from Somerset, who spent this winter in Antarctica with the British Expedition.
Nicole runs the field logistics on one of our harvest shifts (Henry runs the other). She joined Fen Peas in 2018, but loves farming and the countryside – particularly her horses.
Another one of our growers’ sons, Tom is a student at Newcastle who joined us in 2018. He’s sharp as anything, and plays a mean game of poker! When he’s not making us laugh during harvest he loves his sport.
Back with us since 2018, Paul is a veteran of Fen Peas. We won’t let him forget the night he left a harvester ‘parked’ over a ditch!
A* student. No pressure! Sam is looking forward to the early starts of 3am over the pea harvest. He’s a supporter of Leicester City so has had his moment!
The fastidiously-tidy Dzintars joined the Pod Squad in 2018. Despite never having driven a pea viner before he’s picked it up quickly.