Arjan de Gier tends his cucumbers with a mild care often reserved for new-born infants and puppies. He lovingly adjusts their hanging positions, checks their size and girth, strokes their skins, admires their straightness and clips a leaf right here, a stalk there.
He’s 50 years outdated and, apart from the occasional foray into tomatoes, has been a cucumber farmer for 40 years — he grew up on a cucumber farm in Holland the place his father produced 1,000,000 yearly.
Right here at Thanet Earth, in north Kent, he grows 15 million yearly. He has by no means contemplated doing the rest. ‘You don’t simply determine, aged 30, that you may be a cucumber grower,’ he says. ‘It’s a mindset. It’s in you. Part of your being.’
Softly spoken Arjan is not, if I’m sincere, the type of person I anticipated would build the UK’s greatest greenhouse — an awfully high-tech, futuristic ‘farm’ stretching over 95 hectares that produces, 400 million tomatoes and as many as 750,000 peppers every week, in addition to Arjan’s cucumbers — all for the UK market.
Even before the £135million facility opened in 2009, its scale, market dominance and ‘futuristic’ hydroponics (utilizing mineral nutrient options in a water solvent to develop produce) strategies had aroused sturdy emotions. Folks referred to it as a vegetable laboratory, or a super-sized plant manufacturing unit.