Peter Stirling is part of a farming family with around 3,500 acres of land surrounding the town of Arbroath in Scotland and he is a grower with a real commitment to quality and innovation.
Producing a good sprout is not easy. It takes the perfect combination of healthy, nutrient-rich soil, water, a temperate climate, protection against pests and diseases and skilled labour to grow and harvest it when it is at its best. Yet with land running down to the picturesque Angus coast, Peter's farm benefits from a climate that is perfect for growing both sprouts and strawberries, as it benefits from mild winters and temperate summers. This helps to reduce natural pests and diseases that can affect crop quality and, combined with the skill and experience of Peter's team, this means his sprouts really are superb.
It is clear that Peter goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his produce arrives at M&S stores at the highest possible quality. An example of this is the way that sprouts are harvested.
"We harvest the entire stalk in the field and then hand trim each of the buttons from the stalk when it arrives at the packhouse, This gives much better quality and helps to improve shelf life, although it is considerably more labour intensive than conventional machine harvesting in the field."
Peter Stirling, M&S sprout grower
As well as ready prepared sprouts, Peter also supplies M&S stores with ‘sprouts trees' and is developing new ways of packing sprouts that will more than double shelf life – something that further improves product quality and also reduces wastage.
And Peter's focus is not just on sprouts. He has pioneered new techniques to improve strawberries, delivering larger sweeter fruit. ‘Sonata Gold', grown by Peter, is particularly popular in M&S stores over the summer.
As well as his attention to quality it is clear that sustainability is at the heart of everything Peter does. All plant waste material is spread back on to the land as a green fertiliser and he is looking at wind power to reduce his reliance on fossil fuels. New energy efficient boilers have also recently been installed in his glasshouses, which have delivered a 35% reduction in energy costs, and he is committed to ethical employment practices when it comes to the 400 seasonal farm staff he employs. On top of all this, Peter has established a footpath in his fields along the coast and planted a 3-metre wide wild flower strip alongside this.
"The footpath allows local people to enjoy the magnificent views of the coast and the wild flower margin encourages more wildlife, We have also planted areas of woodland on the farm and now have a herd of deer living here, which is lovely to see – even though they sometimes cause a bit of damage to the strawberry crops!"
Peter Stirling, M&S sprout grower
Did you know?
- We now sell red sprouts grown by Peter
- These have higher vitamin C levels than normal sprouts and taste great!
Also on the farm...
Peter has also started growing Flowersprouts™ for M&S, a new crop that has been created by breeding sprouts and kale. Look out for them in store!
Nutrition Facts (sprouts):
- Naturally rich in folate and vitamin C, just eight Brussel sprouts give you your daily recommendation of vitamin C
- A source of fibre and potassium and provide small amounts of B vitamins
Nutrition Facts (strawberries):
- Are a great source of Vitamin C