Westland Nurseries are one of the UK’s largest commercial growers of micro-leaf, sea vegetables, edible flowers, oriental leaves, heirloom tomatoes, and loads more! They offer an extraordinary range (known as collections) of innovative and exciting products to chefs, the food service industry and consumers. Westlands joined LEAF in 2007 and became LEAF Marque certified four years later. Technical Specialist, Liz Donkin explains more about the Westlands way…
Tell us a bit more about Westlands, what is the secret of your success?
We started off in the 1960’s as a traditional salad and leaf growing business and have steadily grown since then. There’s always been a real pioneering spirit running through the company. Our approach has always been to keep looking ahead, with an eye open for what’s around the corner and developing great tasting products that we all feel excited about.
You pride yourselves in your dedication to traceability and quality. How do you achieve this?
It’s all about attention to detail – we call it the Westlands way. All our products are grown with innovation and inspiration, with amazing tastes and aromas, always with the customer in mind. We’ve invested heavily in the latest technology and have got some state of the art equipment here, plus a fantastic team to look after our products. But the key for us is that we’ve never lost sight of what’s important – good, old fashioned horticultural know-how combined with a passion for growing.
Why LEAF Marque?
Environmental considerations lie at the very heart of the business, from our water and energy use, selecting varieties with natural disease resistance right through to the way we manage our waste. Joining LEAF and particularly, becoming LEAF Marque certified was the next logical step. It gives us independent endorsement and demonstrates to our customers that we are proud of what we grow and how we grow it. More and more organisations are supporting LEAF Marque as well so consumer and user recognition is definitely on the increase.
Provenance is an integral part of Westlands, what role does LEAF play in helping you to achieve this?
Growing sustainably here in the UK is what Westlands is all about. Being able to put the LEAF Marque logo on our packs to demonstrate the links of where and how we farm sends out a very clear message about our environmental commitment.
How do the principles of Integrated Farm Management fit in with Westland’s overall ethos?
The principles of IFM fit as well with the horticultural world as they do in a more traditional farm setting. Looking at the whole enterprise and taking into account the complex interactions between each element of the enterprise is the cornerstone of IFM.
Your commitment to more sustainable horticulture is clear, how do you see your partnership with LEAF developing in the future?
We’re really excited about the future and we’ll continue to innovate and hopefully inspire. We definitely see the power of social media in promoting what we do to a much wider audience. Being part of LEAF gives us an ideal platform to engage with many more customers and get them enthusing about micro leaves, edible flowers, sea vegetables and all things green!
Social media is certainly on the up. We’ve noticed more and more farmers signing up to sites like twitter, what kind of benefits do you see from it?
Twitter is a fantastic medium for us to communicate directly with our end customers and chefs, in turn this allows us to gain valuable feedback instantly. This feedback is tailored into producing our collections based upon what customers would love to see and use.
When you launch a new product you don’t always know how the customer is using it, social media allows us to share and creates an open dialogue with users of our produce. We are sharing our knowledge but also that of the Chef with everyone, sites such as Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook allows for a very dynamic communication stream. The really great thing is that the less experienced users of our products can pick up tips and ideas on how the Westlands collections can be used with their menus, all in a way that fits with their busy days
We think social media is a good way to engage your community alongside other activities, which is a key part of IFM. Do you have any top tips for a newcomer to the social media world?
Social media is there to engage with people. It is a great way to share ideas, gain knowledge and promote activities with a diverse group of people including suppliers and key businesses such as LEAF and raises awareness of the positive work the business does. You only have to see how LEAF utilises social media within its own very popular Open Farm Sunday event to gain an understanding of how useful and informative social media is. The key things that we have learnt are to, be yourself, be honest but most of all help others and definitely do not broadcast – engage with the people who have taken the time to talk to you.
To find out more about Westlands and their remarkable collection of fresh produce products, visit www.westlandswow.co.uk. You can also follow them on the following social sites: